GSW grad survives rare brain disorder

AMERICUS, Ga.– A recent Georgia Southwestern State University graduate is well on her way to becoming a registered nurse.

A rare brain disorder could easily have stopped her in her tracks. Tori Duren was born with Arnold Chiari Malformation. She didn’t know it until symptoms started showing up when she was in high school. She would need two surgeries by the time she reached college to correct the problem.

“It’s where my cerebellum, which is the back part of your brain, was too big to fit into my skull, and my cerebellum was squeezed into my skull, and it was pushing out of my foramen magnum, which is the bottom half of your skull,” Tori says. “It was pushing out and pushing on my spinal column.”

Tori took risks with both surgeries in 2013, since both involved her brain in an area near her spine. She was out of school for one year, but when she returned she changed her major from Biology to Nursing.

She says she was inspired by a nurse named Rose at Shands Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where she had both of her surgeries. Tori graduated this month. She takes her licensing exams in June to become a registered nurse.

Symptoms include:

  • Unsteady gait (problems with balance)
  • Poor hand coordination (fine motor skills)
  • Numbness and tingling of the hands and feet
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty swallowing, sometimes accompanied by gagging, choking and vomiting
  • Vision problems (blurred or double vision)
  • Speech problems, such as hoarseness
  • Headaches
  • Neck pain

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