Some kids fear monsters under the bed or in their closet. Zachary’s live in his head. When Zachary was two years old, he would often complain to his mom and dad about an “owie” and point to his head. Experts at the neurology clinic at the Alberta Children’s Hospital assessed him and diagnosed him with chronic headaches. Preventative medication helped lessen their frequency for a few years, but when Zach turned seven, his headaches returned, and with intensity. He would have 20 headache days a month, causing him to miss much of Grade 2. There were some days when he couldn’t even get out of bed because of the pain, which “feels like someone is squeezing my head and not letting go,” says Zach.
Thankfully, the donor-funded Vi Riddell Children’s Pain and Rehabilitation Centre was there for Zach. The family met nurse practitioner Lindsay, their “saviour,” who discovered his headaches were actually migraines and set him on a path of treatment. Some of his migraines are so bad, he needs rescue medication followed by sleep to “break” out of it. Last summer, when a migraine wouldn’t break, he had to be admitted to hospital for IV anti-inflammatory treatment. It took two days for him to come out of his migraine. As helpless as she felt as a parent, she also felt well taken care of by Zach’s nurses. “I was starting to lose it and the nurse took my hand and said, ‘I’m your nurse too.’” Through working with neuropsychologist Meghan Hancock, Zach has also learned to manage his pain and migraines through breathing techniques and other coping strategies. And in September, Lindsay performed the first of two occipital nerve blocks which work to stop the cycles of migraines. Soon after, he was having only 6-10 headache days a month and his behaviour changed — from grumpy and aggressive to his happy and calm. He can now confront his monsters!
Lisa says she doesn’t know where Zach would be without the help he’s received at the Alberta Children’s Hospital for his chronic migraines – including from our generous donors. Thanks to them, they feel like they have their son back.
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