Pediatric neurosurgery patient pays it forward with gifts


Fourteen-year-old Hana Ferguson is a bright, creative and talented teen who hasn’t let Chiari malformation, a congenital abnormality, stand in her way.  After successful surgery, a grateful Hana has paid it forward by helping others at Beaumont Children’s Hospital.

In January, the young pediatric neurosurgery patient celebrated her birthday by asking friends to bring a donation for the Beaumont Chiari Program and pediatric neurology patients in lieu of gifts.

“The idea to collect donations for Beaumont was totally Hana's idea,” says Hana’s mother, Cheryl Ferguson. “When I asked her why she wanted to donate to Beaumont instead of getting birthday presents, she reminded me of one of the surgeries she had a few years ago… she walked into her room and found a teddy bear on her bed and it made her feel better and calmer about what was going on.”

At her murder mystery-themed party, the generous spirit of Hana and her friends overflowed in donations of money and stuffed animals for patients at the hospital.

In February, Hana and her mother presented the gifts of gratitude from the celebration to Beaumont Children’s Hospital and patients in the Chiari Program, which deals with neurological problems. Hana was able to bring all of her love and attention to a young neurology child through the gift of a stuffed animal.

In her own medical struggle, Hana had been suffering from congenital disorders. Despite having scoliosis surgery, scoliosis is a condition in which the spine bends to the side abnormally, in another state at age 7; Hana still had lower back pain and headaches.

In 2012, she became a patient of Holly Gilmer, M.D., director of pediatric neurosurgery and director of the Chiari Program at Beaumont Children’s Hospital.

“Through MRI imaging, evaluation of her symptoms and a physical evaluation, it was confirmed that Hana had tethered spinal cord syndrome and Chiari malformation Type 1,” says Dr. Gilmer.

The tethered syndrome is a congenital neurological disorder caused by tissue attachments that limit the movement of the spinal cord within the spinal column. Chiari malformation is a condition in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal. It can cause dizziness, muscle weakness, numbness, vision problems, headaches and coordination problems.

Dr. Gilmer performed successful surgery on Hana in the fall 2012, Since then, the young student, vocalist and artist has been thriving.

“I am grateful to Dr. Gilmer, the Beaumont Chiari Program and the staff at Beaumont Children’s Hospital,” says Hana, who recently participated in an Italian opera singing competition and will be auditioning for the Michigan Opera Theater Children's Choir in June.  

Hana has not only inspired her friends, but also her grandparents, who will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary at the end of August.

“Following Hana's example, they have asked, instead of gifts that donations be made to the Beaumont Neurology Department,” says Cheryl.

For information about Chiari malformation services at Beaumont or to schedule an appointment, call 248-551-6174.