Car wash to benefit boy, 5, living with Arnold Chiari malformation
by Marie Nesmith
Jul 29, 2011 | 3504 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dylan Fitch
Dylan Fitch
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To help cover his medical expenses, the family of Dylan Fitch is organizing a benefit car wash this weekend. The fundraiser will start at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday at Taco Bell's parking lot, 403 E. Main St. in Cartersville. The youngest child of Dan and Amy Fitch of White, the 5-year-old suffers from a rare disease called Arnold Chiari malformation and is preparing for brain surgery on Aug. 12.

"[The donations are] going to go to all his surgeries," Fitch said. "It's going to help me and my wife stay at the hospital with him because we have to buy our own food.

"It goes to that, [and] it goes to any of his medications that we have to get when he gets released, any follow-up visits. We [also] have a bank account set up strictly for him at Coosa Valley bank. It's a savings account for him," he said, adding the public also can contribute to the account at Coosa Valley Federal Credit Union.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke's website, www.ninds.nih.gov, "Chiari malformations (CMs) are structural defects in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance. When the indented bony space at the lower rear of the skull is smaller than normal, the cerebellum and brainstem can be pushed downward. The resulting pressure on the cerebellum can block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid -- the liquid that surrounds and protects the brain and spinal cord -- and can cause a range of symptoms, including dizziness, muscle weakness, numbness, vision problems, headache, and problems with balance and coordination.

"There are three primary types of CM. The most common is Type I, which may not cause symptoms and is often found by accident during an examination for another condition. Type II, also called Arnold-Chiari malformation, is usually accompanied by a myelomeningocele -- a form of spina bifida that occurs when the spinal canal and backbone do not close before birth, causing the spinal cord to protrude through an opening in the back. This can cause partial or complete paralysis below the spinal opening. Type III is the most serious form of CM, and causes severe neurological defects. Other conditions sometimes associated with CM include hydrocephalus, syringomyelia and spinal curvature."

Although he was born with Chiari malformation, the condition was not diagnosed until 2008 when he fell and experienced a seizure. Along with suffering from headaches, his condition also has impacted his coordination, balance, vision and desire to eat, since he feels as though he is choking.

While upcoming surgery at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite should relieve the pressure on his son's brain, Fitch anticipates Dylan will need more procedures in the future.

"They're going to cut from the top of his head ... down to the very first vertebra in his neck. They'll go in," Fitch said. "They're going to take part of his skull out and they'll put a titanium plate in. They're going to scrape around the brainstem and spinal cord, possibly have to cut some stuff off of the brain because basically what happened [is] part of the brain has actually [fallen] through a hole that is supposed to be closed up, but it's not closed up.

"So it fell through, and it's pushing on the brainstem and the spinal chord. And every time his heart beats, it's cutting off all that fluid and the more pressure, the bigger it gets ... Basically, it will kill him."

Though the past few years have been emotionally draining for Fitch and his wife, the couple also has been touched by the community's ongoing support and encouragement.

"It's very overwhelming," he said about the community's assistance. "It fills me and my wife full of joy and hope. It just takes a lot of pressure and stress off of us knowing that we have people in the community that's willing to help us even though they don't know us. It's just an awesome feeling. ... Me and my wife found out last week that he was going to have surgery, and within a couple of days time, we got this [car wash] put together, just me and her spreading the word as much as we could."