Every morning, 12-year-old Maggie wakes up with a headache. The pain continues all day, every day of her life.
On the good days, Maggie manages it OK. On the bad days, the headaches become so unbearable that she faints or throws up. Sometimes, she has to go to the emergency room because she can’t stop vomiting from the pain.
“It never goes away,” says her mom, Meredith.
Maggie’s migraines first started when she was 7 years old.
“She had been doing really well in school, and then all of the sudden, she couldn’t function,” recalls Meredith. “Her teacher said she could barely hold her head up.”
Meredith thought her daughter’s headaches would eventually go away. But as days turned into weeks and Maggie’s migraines persisted, the family became alarmed.
“I went to a lot of different doctors, and I tried lots of different medicines, but none of them really worked,” says Maggie.
The following year, Maggie was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and started a strict gluten-free diet.
“We thought surely that would help with the headaches, but it didn’t make any difference,” says Meredith.
Maggie was also diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, a condition affecting her circulation. Doctors thought the disorder could be causing Maggie’s headaches, but the diagnosis didn’t provide any relief from the relentless pain.
“There were days when I would just sit in the car and cry. I felt so helpless,” her mother says.
Then, two years ago, Maggie was referred to Dr. Marcy Yonker, a pediatric migraine specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Dr. Yonker had just been recruited to Children’s Colorado as the Franceson Endowed Chair, thanks to a generous gift from Cindy and Dale Francescon.
Endowment donors like the Francescons enable Children’s Colorado to continually build a world-class team of caregivers who know their pediatric specialty areas better than anyone else. That specialty care has made all the difference for Maggie.
A New Plan
After seeing Dr. Yonker, Maggie started a new medication and treatment plan that’s helping her to better manage her headaches. Today, when Maggie feels a migraine coming on, she follows a series of steps that are part of a customized “headache plan.” If that doesn’t work, she heads to Children’s Colorado’s Emergency Department for a special infusion that helps her to minimize the nausea and the pain.
“She still has constant headaches, but now we feel like we’re getting them under control,” says Meredith.
Maggie hopes to someday outgrow her headaches completely, but in the meantime, she avoids all the triggers that make them worse – things like bright lights, strong smells and any activity that involves excessive running or jumping. Maggie says one of
the hardest parts is missing out on birthday parties at trampoline parks.
“I throw up every single time,” Maggie says with a frown.
But Maggie has found plenty of other things that bring her joy. She’s an A-student who loves to read, ski and dance.
Maggie’s mother says she’s proud of her daughter’s perseverance in the face of adversity.
“Whenever I get a bad headache, I’ll think to myself, ‘This is what my daughter deals with every day,’” she says. “And yet, she still goes to school and does all her activities. She never gives up. I’m very proud of how strong she is.”