"Dr. Cutrer pulled the film up for me and said, 'See right here? These are called your cerebral tonsils. In a normal person, they're not there. They're about a centimeter or two higher inside the head than where yours are,'" Sean Murphy said. "'And you can see here, they're constricting your spinal cord.'"
Murphy's skull was too small for his brain to fit inside. And his brain was squeezing out through the hole at the bottom.
"Essentially, it is the mother of all pinched nerves at that point," he said.
Cutrer referred Murphy for a neurosurgical evaluation with Dr. John Atkinson. In people with Chiari, Atkinson explained, the back of the skull doesn't grow normally during childhood.
The procedure to treat the abnormality is to make the back of the skull larger.
So Atkinson removed what he described as a 50-cent piece of the back of Murphy's skull.
"We've opened the membrane and made it larger," he said, "and sewed on this patch to create a larger space for the back of the brain to hang."
Natasha Murphy said she and her husband knew better than to take any surgery lightly.
"But we kinda kept a positive attitude and said, 'You know what, we're gonna get through this,'" she said.
"I had personally never had major surgery before -- had no idea what to expect," Sean Murphy said.
But this one worked. Waking up from surgery, he said, was like "coming out of a dream, out of a fog."
While he had a headache from the four-inch incision in the back of his head, that lessened during his recovery.
"I had no more headache. I had no more pressure," Murphy said. "I could laugh. I could sneeze. I could yawn."
Not only that, but his lifelong struggles with allergies and dizziness disappeared after the surgery as well.
"There's no reason he can't do anything and everything he wants to do," Natasha Murphy said.
"I never knew this is what life was."