Calera conquers Chiari malformation

Published 12:28 pm Friday, September 4, 2015

By JESSA PEASE / Staff Writer

CALERA— Eva Eakins’ first brain surgery related to Chiari malformation disorder was Sept. 19, 1994, so it’s only fitting that her daughter is chairing Calera’s first Conquer Chiari Walk on the same day 21 years later.

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Chiari malformation is a neurological disorder when a person’s brain is too large for their skill. The bottom part of the brain, the cerebellum, descends out of the skull and crowds the spinal cord.

The disorder is usually caught during the five-month ultrasound, but Eakins was born only 3 pounds, 2ounces.  She grew up with headaches and dizziness her whole life, and she was significantly smaller than most people standing at 4-foot-9-inches at 39 years old.

“One of the biggest things is just awareness,” said Amanda Sharp, Eakins’ daughter and chair of the walk. “People just don’t understand what the illness is and what the symptoms are.”

The walk will take place Sept. 19 at the Eagles’ Sports Complex track at Oliver Park. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and participants will walk the track from 9 a.m. to noon.

Sharp said most of the attendees have different physical capabilities and use wheelchairs or walkers, so everyone sets their own pace at the walk.

Up until this year, the closest Conquer Chiari Walks were in Piedmont or Tuskegee. Sharp said many people with the disorder who are close to the Calera area might not have enough energy to make the drive to those locations and also participate in the walk.

“Amazingly enough, there has been an amazing outline of people who thought they were the only ones in the area (with Chiari),” Sharp said. “Our Facebook page has 50 some people who were like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m not the only one.’”

More than 13,600 people participated in Conquer Chiari Walk Across America 2014 at 77 locations across the country. It was the most participants recorded in the history of the walk, and they raised more than $715,000 for research.

“It’s not like MS where its in public eyes,” Sharp said. “(We need to) bring awareness, there is such a range of inflictions.”