OUT OF THE DARKNESS: Nebraska cowgirl rid of raging migraine pain
Chappell, Neb. (April 27, 2015) – For two and a half years, Jo Hummermeier’s life was on pause.
The Chappell cowgirl suffered through pounding migraines so severe she could only attend school for a few hours a day, couldn’t stand to hear a basketball bounce in the gym, even if she was in a different room, and spent her days in the dark and quiet of her family’s basement.
The sixteen year old was in seventh grade when she fell in the locker room and hit her head. Her coach and parents looked for signs of a concussion, but there were none. She continued to play in the volleyball tournament, and after the game, “she came off the court, and there was a huge goose egg protruding from her head,” her mother Lanna said. But there were no other symptoms or pain.
A week later, she was seeing double. And two weeks later, the headaches started. They were so severe, the humming of the lights at school bothered her. With every step she took, her head pounded.
Her parents, Lanna and Dale, were concerned about their youngest child. They took her to a neurologist who found nothing on a CAT scan or MRI. They went on to the concussion clinic at Children’s Hospital in Denver, where doctors put her on medication, mainly to control the migraine pain.
By this time, her migraines were so bad she was in school half days. Riding her horse and competing in rodeo, her favorite activities, were impossible; every step the horse took sent pounding pains to her head.
Lanna and Dale were at their wits’ end. Jo couldn’t participate in extracurricular activities, couldn’t ride, couldn’t compete in junior high rodeo. They took her to seven different doctors, four chiropractors, two massage therapists, anything to lessen the pain and discover the problem.
Doctors finally gave her Lidocaine patches to wear on her head, above her right eyebrow, to lessen the pain. She used veterinarian wrap to apply the patches to her head, in order to try to compete in rodeo, and made it through the first four rodeos of her freshman year before she quit. She’d leave the arena after her run, hollering at her mom, “Trailer, now!” “She needed to be in the (horse) trailer where it was quiet and dark,” Lanna said.
She had competed as a barrel racer and pole bender, but with the head injury, it was difficult. There was no playing volleyball, either, her second-favorite sport.
To combat the migraine pain, doctors finally gave her two sessions of Botox injections, which helped manage the pain. “Jo was on a seven on the pain scale,” Lanna said, and the Botox brought her to a three. “The doctor said she was the worst pain patient they’d ever seen at Children’s (Hospital).” She could hardly stand to comb her hear without screaming. She flinched at the movement of anything towards her head. “The headaches she was having twenty-four-seven were your worst migraine times five. But nothing ever showed up on a CAT scan or MRI.”
It was at the reflexologist’s office three days after her last Botox injections, in March of 2014, that the mystery was solved. “He felt her head again,” Lanna said, “and discovered that the upper skull plate was popped out of the groove and sitting over the lower skull plate, with a bundle of nerves running between the two.” It was pinching off the main branch of nerves that comes from the back of the head to the eyes.
Immediately Lanna saw a difference in her daughter. “She started smiling and her eyes sparkled. ‘The pounding is gone, Mom,’” Jo said. Her pain wasn’t completely over, but she was on her way to recovery.
She was released to play volleyball last fall, but her doctor has said no to basketball, because of the possibility of bumping her head again. And rodeo? She took up her favorite sport last spring, with doctors’ approval and weekly medical phone conferences.
She’s now a much happier girl, a sophomore at Creek Valley High School in Chappell, back to her old activities: showing horses and cattle in 4-H, participating in FFA, and singing in choir and show choir.
Her parents are glad the ordeal is over. “When your kid is sick, you want to take the pain away, and with something that horrible, where do you turn next? Nobody was figuring it out. You felt helpless, with your hands tied behind your back.”
Jo still makes regular trips to the reflexologist, to make sure the skull plate hasn’t slipped. If it has, he puts it back in place, and she can feel it pop. “It’s a weird feeling,” she said, “but a good weird feeling.” The pain is behind her.