Car Accident Leads to Life Changing Surgery

It all changed when the driver hit the breaks and the car started sliding.

By Noelle Cors | for Royal Report

Kiana Ruf, now 19

Driving in the car with volleyball teammates was a typical night in February 2010 for Kiana Ruf, who at the time was playing varsity while still in eighth grade. It all changed when the driver hit the breaks and the car started sliding.

According to Kiana, a semi was parked in a driveway and an off duty police officer was stopped in the middle of the road talking to the semi driver. The driver of Kiana’s car, Paige, did not realize the officer was parked until they were too close. The car ended up sliding into both the officer’s car and the semi. In all the commotion Kiana said she hit her head on the center console when they came to a stop.

After the accident Kiana mentioned she started experiencing headaches all the time, which caused her to start visiting doctors. She dealt with dizziness and light-headedness for sometime after the accident as well.

Kiana was seen by multiple doctors and the diagnosis did not come until after her father noticed something different on an MRI. She mentioned that her dad is a Chiropractor and had previous experience reading MRIs. From this they learned that she had Chiari malformation.

Columbia University’s website states, “Chiari malformation is a congenital defect in the area of the back of the head where the brain and spinal cord connect.” With the new diagnosis there were further steps that needed to be taken.

Kiana’s mother, Sherri Ruf, said that the best option for Kiana was to have surgery. The family did not want her to undergo any “invasive measures” and would have preferred a more natural route as Sherri stated. Even growing up Kiana said she never took any drugs such as Advil, never went to the doctor, and had never been given any vaccines.

A typical Chiari sits three to four millimeters too low, but Kiana’s was 18 millimeters. “My brain sits lower in my skull … the spinal cord and brain are being compressed in a space its not supposed to be,” said Kiana.

Due to the Chiari Malformation the cerebrospinal fluid is restricted in its flow according to The Chiari Institute. After reviewing the MRI, it was evident that surgery was necessary for Kiana to get back the flow which is what Sherri said promoted the decision to have Kiana undergo surgery. Part of Kiana’s brain, the “tonsils,” would have to be removed.

Even after being told by the doctors that she should have surgery she kept playing basketball. While at regionals competing for her school she passed out when she was walking, which finally made the idea of surgery a reality.

The surgery was done in the summer of 2010. That fall Kiana was a freshman in high school and still recovering. Sophomore year is when Kiana said she finally started playing basketball again. It was hard because her head was still sensitive. She described it by saying you could bump her in the head with a balloon and it would be painful.

Sherri recalled a time when Kiana was back playing basketball and her head got hit. She was running a drill, going backwards down the court when a coach stepped on the court and Kiana collided into him hitting her head. It was hard for her to avoid getting hit during sporting events.

Sherri described her saying, “she is always pretty rock solid.” Even after going through everything, Sherri noted that one year when Kiana started playing with the team they went on a 10 game winning streak getting them to sections. Kiana said it was her junior year of high school, roughly two years after surgery.

Before and even after surgery Kiana said, “I was really known as the athlete.” She found much of her identify in sports and stated she was “all about competition.” Learning to cope with the pain became a side affect of it all.

Looking back Kiana would not change anything even though it was not the ideal situation to be placed in. She learned that, “people are more valuable then these things we make it out to be.” Though she found her identity in sports she had to switch focus. “I want my identity to be in Christ … I am so much more valuable as a daughter of God then I am an athlete,” said Kiana.

Besides trying to jump back into volleyball, basketball, and track she mentioned her involvement in student counsel and a worship team. This helped her stay connected because she not only had to miss out on sports, but also school.

To this day Kiana says she has headaches a majority of the time. She experiences dizziness and cannot stand up for long periods of time. It is also hard for her to move her head side to side. “I actually go to a doctor every week, sometimes 2 or 3 times a week,” which she said helps with the pain. If it is a migraine, sleeping usually work well.

Kiana sees it as a time of growth and learning. “Everyone just gave up so much to be there for me … my family was amazing for coming through” she said. It was better for it to happen at a young age because she noted how healthy she was and how it was easier for her body to heal. Kiana said “I would not be who I am if it didn’t happen.”

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