SJ teen raising awareness about chronic migraines

If you were to meet Audrey Morgan, you’d find a very upbeat and engaging 16-year-old. The junior at Camden Catholic High School is an avid hang glider, starting to plan for college, and raises money for The Gentle Barn, a sanctuary for abused animals.

What Morgan also wants you to know is that she can do these things despite suffering from episodes of chronic migraines and abdominal migraines, and feeling constantly nauseous since the spring of 2009.

She recently entered a video - titled “A smile can only hide so much”  - about her condition in the Neuro Film Festival, a contest held by the American Brain Foundation to help raise awareness and call for more research about brain and nervous system diseases. Winners will be announced later on this month.

“I saw it as an opportunity to get my story out there and for someone to see that it gets give someone hope that might be going through the same thing as me,” said Morgan, a Cherry Hill resident.

“People need to know how serious migraines can be,” she said. “Some days it just hurts and I lay in bed all day.”

Morgan says listening to pop star Grayson Chance's music, watching hang gliding videos and reading stories about The Gentle Barn helps her when a migraine has her out for an entire day.

In the beginning, Morgan had migraines and abdominal migraines everyday, but it has gone down to two to three episodes a week with medications and Botox injections. She receives Botox injections in her head, forehead, shoulder and neck every three months, and injections in her stomach about once a year to try to prevent and dull her migraines.

An abdominal migraine can strike abruptly with symptoms of pain in the abdominal area, vomiting, dizziness, paleness, and can last up to 72 hours, said Olga Katz, M.D., a specialist in neurology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital who sees Morgan.

“It’s not something that we see frequently in children. It can also involve headaches. It makes it puzzling and difficult to diagnose,” she said.

Before her condition, Morgan was a championship level Irish dancer, played field hockey, and ran track. She’s had to adjust her interests because touching her neck causes the nausea to flare up and it becomes difficult to swallow. She also tries to avoid migraine triggers like bus exhaust, cigarette smoke, intense flashing lights and foods like red meat and peaches.

“One key thing is to find something that you’re passionate about because it gives you something to look forward to and distracts you,” she said. “Hang gliding is just one thing that takes my mind off the pain.”

“It’s gotten better through the years, but I’ve forgotten what’s like to feel normal,” Morgan said. “I surround myself with people who are very supportive that look beyond sick Audrey and see the outgoing and happy Audrey.”

Beyond support from family and friends, Morgan also credits her faith in helping her cope.

“I’ve never been one to dwell on the negative. I know that it can get better and it has been,” she said.

“God doesn’t give you more than you can handle...If she’s not letting it get to her, how can we let it get to us?” said Mike Morgan, her father.