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Margaret Murray

Concussion Led to Migraines in Teenager

Holy Name MS - Margaret Murray

The hit to her head when she collided with her teammate was so hard, Margaret Murray could no longer remember her team's plays. She tried desperately to keep up with the varsity basketball game – she was a freshman and as a starter, didn't want to disappoint her teammates or coach – but she was completely lost. Her coach pulled her from the game and she went on to endure the effects of such a severe concussion that she missed a month of school. Two years later, she still doesn't remember anything about the game after getting hit.

It took about nine months before she felt like herself but by that time, she had developed debilitating migraines that eventually occurred every two days. Each new doctor she visited with her mother, Liz, had a different diagnosis. Neurologists, endocrinologists, opticians, ENTs, orthopedics and physical therapists had thoughts on what might be the problem, but no one had an effective treatment plan.

"It was horrible – I took her for MRIs, CT scans – they even checked for a brain tumor," Liz Murray said. "Margaret was never a complainer and always had a very high tolerance for pain. To see your child suffer and struggle to get through the day was very stressful. I felt helpless."

Then Margaret's pediatrician recommended Dr. James Charles, a neurologist at Holy Name Medical Center and a renowned specialist in migraines. By the time Margaret found Dr. Charles, she was enduring a migraine that had lasted nine days and showed no signs of relenting.

Dr. Charles asked some questions that seemed totally irrelevant to Margaret's headaches but shocked Liz with their accuracy. "Did Margaret have frequent stomach aches as a child? Was there a family history of migraines? And finally, could they remember a time when Margaret might have suffered another concussion?"

The answers to all three questions – a resounding yes. Margaret had her nose broken, twice, when she was in 7th grade after shots to the head, again during basketball games. She wasn't treated for a concussion then, but looking back, they agreed she probably did have at least one.

Dr. Charles said Margaret's "brain circuitry basically needed to be reset" to stop the migraines and started a 5-hour infusion on Margaret, to be followed by another one the following day. Too exhausted to notice how she felt, Margaret went to bed immediately after the infusions. But the morning after the second infusion, well, it was like her own personal renaissance.

"I just thought – is this the way you're supposed to feel every day?" Margaret said. "It had been so long since I felt normal. No sharp or pounding pain. No tricks to my eyesight. I just felt like I did before all this happened."

As Margaret finishes up her junior year, she is immersed in high school activities including being back on the basketball court, looking at colleges and anticipating the summer. She currently takes topiramate – a medication to help prevent migraines – twice a day and has cambia on hand if she feels one starting to develop. She is hoping to be able to discontinue all medications at some point but is just thrilled to be pain-free.

"I am so happy I have my life back," Margaret said. "Dr. Charles and the people at Holy Name made me feel like myself again. I can't tell you how good it feels to be headache-free because it's been so long since I felt like this. The treatment was life changing and I'm so grateful. I want to be an advocate for others who may have experienced the same challenges."

Learn more about Headache Treatment Program at Holy Name