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Head Start parent finds support for daughter’s condition

If you look at Mayzie Sue Springer, you see a happy, playful, energetic child. But her mother, Makenzie, keeps an especially close eye on Mayzie Sue as she plays. You would not realize it as Mayzie Sue climbed on jungle gyms and played at her preschool’s year-end celebration, but only three months prior, she was in surgery to correct a neurological condition that she had since birth.

Mayzie Sue was born with Chiari malformation, a condition in which the affected person’s skull is smaller than normal, causing pressure in the brain and spinal cord. The condition can cause sufferers to have slurred speech, light sensitivity, dizziness, headaches and other symptoms. However, many people who have Chiari malformation are asymptomatic, and can live their entire lives without ever showing signs of having the condition.

Mayzie Sue had never shown symptoms of the disease. As a preschool student at Great Lakes Community Action Partnership (former WSOS Community Action Commission) Early Childhood Center on Bancroft in Toledo, she acts and plays like any preschooler would. However, one day more than a year ago, Mayzie Sue had an incident that soon led to doctors discovering her diagnosis.

"She was taking a nap on the couch and then called out for me," Makenzie said. "I found her lying on the floor. I propped her up, and saw that her eye was turned in."

After Mayzie Sue was taken to the hospital for care and subsequent testing, doctors confirmed that she had Chiari malformation. Specialists in Akron and Cincinnati worked with Mayzie Sue for about a year after the incident, moving cautiously before deciding that she ultimately needed surgery to relieve the pressure that her skull was causing to her brain and spinal cord.

The surgery took place Feb. 22, 2017 in Cincinnati. After three days in the hospital, Mayzie Sue was released and began her recovery. She was soon able to return to her classroom, and Makenzie thanked the Head Start staff for helping to accommodate her daughter as Mayzie Sue recovered from surgery.

"They were super awesome," Makenzie said. "The whole school made a basket of stuff for Mayzie when she was in the hospital."

When Mayzie Sue returned to preschool, center staff were able to tailor their rooms to accommodate some of her needs, such as putting darker shades on room lights to help Mayzie Sue’s sensitivity to light.

"We are still working with some sensory issues, but she’s getting a lot better. Makenzie added. "It’s crucial for her to have a good academic career."

Makenzie also tells people about her daughter’s condition to educate others on Chiari malformation, and has found support she needs at GLCAP Head Start.

"You wouldn’t imagine a school would be so supportive. I couldn’t have asked for a better support system," she said. "My cause is letting people know about Chiari malformation, because it was hard for me to see something wrong with my daughter and not know what it was."

About the author

Great Lakes Community Action Partnership

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