When a Headache Leads to a More Serious Diagnosis

It’s easy to shrug off a headache; it’s the most common disorder of the nervous system. But sometimes a headache can be a sign of a more serious diagnosis – even a brain tumor.

14-year old Megan Momany began having migraines that interfered with her daily routine. She was pulled out of volleyball, a sport she loved, after having headaches, fainting spells, dizziness and nausea.

Megan’s migraines became persistent, keeping her up at night, with excruciating pain lasting for hours then going away. Thinking it was cardiac issues, Megan went to ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital for a stress test. While there, her symptoms became severe. She was unable to move, and experienced vomiting and blurred vision.

Megan was taken down to the emergency center and received a CT scan. Later, an MRI showed a tumor on her brain stem, known as Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma (JPA). That’s when Kevin Reinard, MD, ProMedica Physicians Neurosurgery, stepped in. He performed a successful surgery the very next day.

“Now that I look back, in hindsight, she had no freckles. I should have known something then–her color was totally white,” said Cara Momany, Megan’s mother.

Dr. Reinard said the difference between Megan’s headaches and a classic migraine is that classic migraines don’t last that long. He notes the length, frequency and the fact that it persisted, were some of the tip off points. Additionally, most kids don’t have severe migraines with nausea and vomiting, and migraine medications weren’t working for her.

“Now, I can have a good life and future. This could have killed me.”

Dr. Reinard with Megan and her dad

Megan’s life has drastically changed after her surgery. “It’s been a lot easier to get around. In the mornings, I used to wake up and be nauseous and couldn’t go to school. Now, I can have a good life and future,” she said. “This could have killed me.”

Dr. Reinard recommends seeking emergency medical attention if a migraine is persistent, your normal routine to reduce the pain isn’t working and if medications aren’t helping.

“I don’t know what we would of done if Dr. Reinard wasn’t here,” said Megan.

Do you have migraines? Click to learn about associated conditions and identifying triggers.