NEW CASTLE —
Autumn Paolini has never been one to complain.
But over a month’s span earlier this spring, the brown-haired, blue-eyed Neshannock Township teenager had migraine-like headaches and frequently went to her parents Jim and Cheryl for help.
“It was prolonged — I hate to use this word — nagging,” Jim said. “She wasn’t doing it for any other reason than she was hurting. It was an ongoing thing for three weeks. I tried to give her advice and tried to give her medication that has worked for me, but nothing was working for her.”
Cheryl watched the youngest of her four children deteriorate before her eyes.
“She’s a fighter,” Cheryl said. “She never complains about anything when she’s in pain and a lot of times, she’ll hide things.
“But, you could see her getting progressively worse. I could see that something definitely wasn’t right. You could just see it when she was walking around and would have to turn her whole body to look around.”
THE PAIN INTENSIFIES
Early this spring, the 16-year-old Neshannock High sophomore’s vision also became problematic. Autumn’s doctors believed the root of the problem was a migraine and recommended Motrin.
“It’d help sometimes,” Autumn said.
As the pain persisted and her vision got worse, it got to the point that the honor roll student was contemplating not studying for a test and going to bed early.
“Her whole personality changed,” said Cheryl, who works as a registered nurse. “I’d take her to school and she was always so meticulous. She matched perfectly. Then, she started wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt to school with no makeup on. This was every day. I thought, ‘This isn't right. This isn’t her.’ She’d wake up in the morning and her head would hurt. She’d go to bed at night and her head hurt. She’d call from school about her head hurting.”
The Paolinis and their family doctor continued to search for the root of Autumn’s health issues.
“We kept trying to figure out what was going on with the headaches,” Cheryl said. “We went to the doctor. He thought it was from stress. She was playing softball. I don’t want to say that she stresses over her homework, but she does. She gets straight A’s.”
Autumn’s new contacts were even thought to be a cause.
“One of my pains was in my eye,” she said. “I could push around my eye and it would hurt really bad, so I thought it was my eyes for a little bit. Then, we thought it was my sinuses, because it hurt (around that region). We thought I had allergies. We threw everything out there.”
A routine sleepover with some of Autumn’s friends on May 3 spurred the Paolinis to head to the emergency room for more help.
“That Friday night, I had my friends over, but I spent most of the night on the couch,” Autumn said. “I couldn’t stand up, because I was dizzy and I couldn’t see. I was trying to be normal, but ...”
“She wasn’t,” Cheryl said, finishing her daughter’s thought. “That’s when we decided to go to the ER.”