Fishing for a cure

Published 11:59 pm Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sherry Catrett of Opp, and several members of her family, may look perfectly healthy and normal on the outside. But inside, they have the Chairi malformation, a neurological condition that affects the brain and can lead to a variety of health problems.

“One of the things is that I’m always in pain,” Catrett said. “When you have Chiari, it means that the cerebellum part of your brain has fallen out of the skull and crowds into the spinal cord. It’s a total struggle to even function from day-to-day, even something as simple as getting out of bed.”

The Chiari malformation itself is not a major medical issue, but it can lead to a variety of problems later in life. Those with Chiari frequently suffer from blackouts, seizures, speech problems, increased inter-cranial pressure and permanent blindness.

Catrett said the disorder affects only about 250,000 Americans, but because it is a genetic condition, many members of her immediate family also have the problem. Her daughter, Michelle Kilgore, and grandsons, Cam and Deven Kilgore, also have Chiari. She added that her father, grandmother and two brothers died from complications due to Chiari.

“My grandson has had 11 broken bones in his life, and the last one was a compound fracture of his arm, but he needed no pain medication,” she said. “Because of the Chiari, his body is often in pain, and he had just gotten used to it so breaking a bone didn’t feel any different.”

Catrett said she and her family members usually travel to New York to visit the Chiari Institute for treatment. However, this weekend, they will do their part locally to help find a cure for the problem by holding a fund-raising fishing tournament.

The “Cam and Deven’s All Winners Chiari Fishing Tournament” will be held Saturday at Frank Jackson State Park in Opp. The registration fee is $15; families with two or more may register for $12 if they pre-register only. All children between the ages of 2-8 will receive a participation trophy.

The official start time is 8 a.m., but “early birds” may start when the registration table opens at 6:30 a.m. Concessions will be sold as well as bait and tackle. Pre-rigged poles will be available for rental if needed.

All proceeds from the fishing tournament will go toward the non-profit American Syringomyelia and Chiari Alliance Project. The registration fee is tax deductible.

“We’re going to have some concessions and hopefully people will come out and enjoy it,” Catrett said. “We’ll just see what kind of day the Lord gives us. All I know, is that I desperately want to do my part to help find out what gene causes Chiari and find a way to stop it. It’s already affected six generations of my family, and I don’t want it to affect a seventh.”

In addition, Catrett has also started a support group for nearby residents who have Chiari. The Tri-States Chiari Survivors Support Group meets once a month.

For more information about the fishing tournament, support group or Chiari, call Sherry Catrett at 334-493-1228 or Michelle Kilgore at 334-202-1273.