WNY teen's fight with rare brain condition

WNY Teen's Rare Brain Condition

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Meghan Pawlak is only 13-years-old but she has already been through more pain and medical confusion than anyone ever should. 

At 12-years-old, the headaches started. Then came stuttering and tremors. Local pediatricians and even a neurosurgeon could not say why. 

"They're just getting worse and worse each day and I can't sleep and it's hard to do anything," Meghan said. "I don't really go out that much." 

Symptoms have been persisting for nearly a year now and she said doctors even went as far as to say she was faking it for attention. 

But her mom and dad thought otherwise. Their previously passionate and enthusiastic daughter didn't want to play her guitar or go to school. 

They asked for more tests. An MRI came back showing a cyst on Meghan's pineal gland. But again, doctors said a pineal cyst as small as hers, at seven millimeters, would not cause symptoms. 

"I think the other part that kind of ruffled our feathers is we had to ask for an MRI," Thomas, Meghan's dad, said. "We had to ask for an EEG. They just wanted to start throwing medications at her."

They went looking for another opinion and found one in Dr. Dong Kim, the head neurosurgeon at Memorial Hermann in Houston, Texas. 

Dr. Kim has an impressive resume, having operated on United States Representative Gabby Giffords after she was shot in Tucson, Arizona in 2011. 

The removal of pineal cysts was also on his resume. Cysts, he said, that can cause symptoms. 

"There is a belief among many physicians that pineal cysts never cause symptoms," Dr. Kim can be heard saying in a webinar on the Memorial Hermann website. "As a result, often I hear that a patient has seen other surgeons and they don't want to do anything. But that is not true. Many of these pineal cysts are symptomatic."

The doctor goes on to explain that pineal cysts are benign, fluid-filled deposits. They are typically found in 20 to 30-year-olds and are three times more likely in women than men. The cause is unknown. 

Meghan and her parents met with Dr. Kim who scheduled them in for surgery to remove Meghan's cyst at the end of October. 

The procedure is short, recovery will probably be a few months but the relief for the whole family cannot come soon enough. 

"[My life] is kind of like on pause and the whole world is going on around me," Meghan said. "So I'm really excited to get the surgery and get back into things." 

If you would like to help Meghan and her family, you can donate on their GoFundMe page. You can also buy a 26 shirt and a portion of the price will go to Meghan. 

 


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