The wild throw nailed Gabriella Hosack hard in the back of the head. So hard it knocked her unconscious and gave her whiplash.
The captain of the Hubbard High School girl’s softball team, Gabriella suffered a concussion from the blow delivered by a teammate warming up her arm. It was just the beginning of medical problems that would torment Gabriella for more than 4 years. She suffered from headaches, imbalance, ringing in the ears and eye spasms so severe she could hardly focus.
“I had limited hearing in the right ear where I got hit. I could not read because my eyes were crossing in, and I couldn’t see distance either,” said Gabriella, now 21 and studying pre-veterinary medicine at Youngstown State University.
“It took me 13 hours to take the ACT because someone had to read it to me,” she said. “I was not able to drive for months at time for over 2 years.”
She sought help from specialists at different medical centers, underwent surgeries on the muscles around her eyes and tried multiple medications. But it wasn’t until she saw Akron Children’s Hospital neurologist Dr. Vivek Veluchamy in August 2017 at the NeuroDevelopmental Science Center that Gabriella found relief.
Gabriella’s symptoms were unusual. But it didn’t take long for Dr. Veluchamy to figure out that nerve inflammation from the injury was causing her problems. He could feel the swollen nerves at the back of her skull.
He suggested a simple nerve block injection.
Gabriella was in the right place. Akron Children’s Hospital is a national leader in using nerve block injections to treat kids with chronic headaches and concussion symptoms.
Dr. Veluchamy injected a mixture of lidocaine and a steroid into the occipital nerve in the back of her skull.
Gabriella’s symptoms disappeared almost immediately.
“Within 5 minutes, my hearing was back, the pain in front of my face was gone. It was like magic,” she said.
Her eye spasms stopped, too.
Her parents, Lisa and Dan, were elated. They had lost many nights’ sleep worrying about Gabriella.
“After Gabriella saw Dr. Veluchamy, Lisa called me and said he can fix her,” Dan said.
He was the first doctor to give Gabriella hope. The family also credits Dr. Richard Hertle, director of pediatric ophthalmology at Akron Children’s Hospital, for his efforts to unravel Gabriella’s perplexing symptoms and for referring her to Dr. Veluchamy.
Gabriella sees Dr. Veluchamy every 3 or 4 months for a nerve block injection.
“Gabriella struggled for 4 years, day in and day out,” Dr. Veluchamy said. “Not many people are aware of occipital nerve block for treatment of headaches, migraine and post-traumatic headaches. It’s an old technique but it is underutilized.”
Interest is growing in the use of nerve block for headaches, he said. More doctors are reporting success with patients who are grateful for the pain relief.
A 2014 study published in Pediatric Neurology found that nerve block injections benefited more than half of 46 children with chronic headaches. A more recent review of research said 7 pediatric studies showed excellent results from nerve blocks for headaches.
Many patients need just a one-time nerve block injection for headaches, Dr. Veluchamy said.
“It will be a standard of care in the future,” Dr. Veluchamy said. “It’s better than taking pain medication. It’s better and safer, especially in this era of addiction.”
Gabriella, a standout first baseman who played in tournaments all over the country, had given up on playing softball at the collegiate level. But she is excelling academically, making the dean’s list, and she looks forward to graduation next year.
She plans to go on to veterinary college, and hopes some day to return to the game she loves.
Learn more about the hospital’s Headache Clinic or call 330-543-8050.