When Molly Lichtenstein of Gaithersburg was only 16 years old, she was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation.

Chiari Malformation

Chiari Malformation is a neurological disorder where the bottom part of the brain, the cerebellum, descends out of the skull and crowds the spinal cord, putting pressure on both the brain and spine. This can lead to debilitating headaches, neck pain, balance problems, breathing issues, weak and numb limbs, as well as many other issues.

It is estimated that Chiari affects 300,000 people in the United States.

After being diagnosed, Molly had her first brain surgery at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center that summer. Since then she has undergone two dozen surgeries, about 15 of which at Shady Grove Adventist.

She particularly remembers the time she spent in the pediatric unit, saying “the nurses there are awesome. They’re so sweet and nice and became friends of ours. They still keep in touch with us.”

Conquer Chiari Walk Across America

While going through diagnosis and treatment, Molly came across a forum that talked about the Conquer Chiari Walk Across America. It is a series of local awareness and fundraising walks held across the nation on the same day. All proceeds fund Chiari research, education and awareness programs.

The first year Molly participated there was no Maryland walk so she went to Virginia. Later, a Maryland walk started in Germantown. After two years of participating, Molly and the Germantown, Maryland walkers raised more than $30,000.

This year, she is the organizer for the third annual Germantown, Maryland Conquer Chiari Walk. This year’s walk takes place this Saturday, September 20 in Germantown. You can still register in person for tomorrow’s walk.

Molly says she is doing much better these days and began attending college almost two years ago.