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Carthage Central High School student faces two high-risk surgeries

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CARTHAGE — The day before Thanksgiving, Laurie A. Crump had to rush her 16-year-old son to Syracuse because doctors found fluid in his brain.

“I was in a state of shock,” Ms. Crump said in a phone interview from Syracuse.

Benjamin Crump, after being diagnosed with a chiari malformation, was staying at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Upstate Medical University, where he anxiously awaited the first of two high-risk surgeries — one to fix the C1 and C2 vertebrae in his spinal cord, which are pushing into the base of his brain, and another to remove some masses in his brain.

The ordeal started almost two months ago, when Benjamin was diagnosed with mononucleosis. Not long after, he started having severe migraines.

Eventually the Carthage High School senior had an MRI. On Nov. 27, Ms. Crump received a call from Benjamin’s doctor telling her to leave work, because they had found some problems. She was told he had some fluid in his brain and they would have to schedule a surgery in early December.

But when Benjamin’s headaches lasted for six hours on Dec. 5, Ms. Crump was instructed to take him to Syracuse immediately.

The first surgery Benjamin was scheduled to undergo was set for Dec. 11 to remove two bones at the back of his skull and add two medal rods and screws to support his neck. This was intended to treat his chiari malformation, which causes brain tissue to extend into the spinal canal.

The second procedure, transoral surgery, will take place after the holidays.

Family friend Melissa Randal said of both procedures, “There’s an 85 percent chance of dying on the table, coming out with brain damage or being paralyzed.”

Benjamin lives for the holiday season.

“He always wants to start Christmas the day after Halloween. He loves the music; he loves the lights, the wrapping,” she said. “That was his big thing when talking to the doctors. ‘Can I go home for Christmas?’ If all goes well, he might be able to. No promises; no guarantees. Maybe we can come together as a family and have that.”

The Crump family is still unsure what triggered the issues in the first place. Benjamin likely had the chiari malformation since birth and it may be hereditary. Benjamin was adopted, but Ms. Crump said the members of his birth family to whom her family has spoken said it had not appeared in the family beforehand.

“Whether it’s a football injury from almost five years ago or an incident on the school bus last January, there was some type of trauma that took place and has to be taken care of now,” Ms. Crump said.

Before being hospitalized, Benjamin enjoyed the arts, but his big thing was couponing.

“He walks around town with a big bag and he’s into extreme couponing,” Ms. Randal said.

Couponing. It was one thing that had the strong Ms. Crump laughing and on the verge of crying at the same time.

“I’m a big coupon person, but he has surpassed me and then some ... we’re doing coupons to the point where he’s making money,” she said, adding, “We had a thing to see how much he can make and we would use that to take his little sister to Disney.”

Obviously, plans for the trip to Disney Land have been put on hold. Now, both Benjamin and Ms. Crump want to see him get better.

“He is strong and loving .... He just loves his family and friends with such fierceness. He doesn’t always stand up for himself, but when it comes to family, it’s game on.”

Ms. Crump works for the Department of Social Services and since her son’s medical issues first appeared, she’s been forced to take a leave of absence. Benjamin’s father is Peter M. Crump, owner of Pete’s Guns, 251 State St., Carthage. His brothers are West Carthage Fire Chief Peter M. Crump Jr. and emergency medical technician Joshua L. Crump.

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