Radnor dad to run Grand Canyon for childhood migraine research
RADNOR » No one wants to see their child suffer.
Keith DiMarino’s daughter, Alexa, 12, had a migraine headache that would not go away. It lasted for three long months this past spring. The family consulted with a neurologist at Johns Hopkins and Dr. Donna Stephenson, a pediatric neurologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Happily, Alexa is doing much better now and is in seventh grade at St. Katharine of Siena School this fall.
The Wayne resident praised St. Katherine’s teachers and Principal Bud Tosti for their understanding and kindness to his daughter, who had to miss several months of school because of the severe migraine pain.
“They were great,” he said. “They really worked with us. The whole administration over there was really supportive.”
While Alexa did miss some school work during her migraine siege, she is a straight A student and a year ahead in math, so she did not fall behind, DiMarino said.
“All the students were writing cards,” he said. “It’s a really cool community. It was a pleasant surprise the way they handled it.”
With treatment, Alexa began to “show some progress with a couple of medicines,” DiMarino said. “She started to feel better. By the end of the summer, she has a few flash migraines; they come and go.”
In addition to medications, Alexa avoids foods that might trigger a migraine like caffeine and nuts. She also started working out on the advice of Dr. Stephenson, he said.
“It’s tough,” said DiMarino. “It’s a hard thing to have. The CHOP team was awesome. We went all through CHOP. It started with a sinus infection, so we were in ear, nose and throat.”
They also went to an infectious disease specialist at CHOP to rule out Lyme disease, he said.
DiMarino, 40, decided to take action to increase awareness of childhood migraines, to support research into the condition and to help CHOP. He will take part in the Rim-to-Rim-toRim Challenge on Sept. 29 and 30 with a goal of raising $25,000. With a group of Ironmen triathletes, he will run and walk on trails zigzagging down the Grand Canyon, across the canyon floor and back again, about 22 miles each way.
DiMarino, the CEO of DocuVault, who describes himself as a casual runner, played football and wrestled in high school at The Haverford School.
Although DiMarino considers himself a lifelong athlete, he added, “I am not an Ironman. I don’t think you’ll catch me doing any more than six or seven miles in any given situation, so I’ve been trying to aggressively train more for the increased distance.”
He is also working with a trainer, he said. DiMarino is training around 22 hours a week.
“I am proud of my dad that he is taking on this challenge, and I am excited that he is going to raise money for children like myself that suffer with migraines,” said Alexa, who has three younger siblings, Keith Jr., 9; Daniel, 7; and Colin, 5.
Along with his wife, Jennifer, his family is supporting his efforts, said DiMarino, but they will not be coming to Arizona for the Challenge weekend.
Meanwhile, Stephenson said that migraines in children are not rare, as was previously thought. Some
7,500 patients were treated for headaches at CHOP last year alone, she said. About
60 percent of children have headaches, and 8 percent of those children have migraines. Migraines strike
12 percent of adults, with more women than men suffering from the condition. Most research on migraines has been done on adults, so doctors “extrapolate” that knowledge to treat children, she said. But more research is needed on childhood migraines.
She would also like to see more awareness and education, she said.
There are “best habits and practices” to help prevent migraines, such as staying “well hydrated,” getting adequate sleep and following a good and regular diet, she said. Exercising and learning how to manage stress also play a role.
There are “medications to treat migraines acutely,” said Stephenson. “There are several medications that are safe and effective.”
Additional medications are available if patients don’t respond at first, and there are also preventive medications to keep migraine frequency down, she said.
Although migraines are a chronic condition with no cure at the moment, these headaches can “come under effective control,” said Stephenson. And in some cases, child sufferers can outgrow their migraines, she said, but getting treatment early and following healthy habits are important.
“Headache is such a common and pervasive condition in children,” said Stephenson. “It causes disability, missed school, missed activities and is associated with depression and anxiety. It really is a disabling but very treatable, condition. Kids largely get better with appropriate treatment.”
Keith DiMarino is pictured with his daughter, Alexa, who suffers from migraines. He will take part in the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim Challenge at the Grand Canyon to raise funds for childhood migraine research.