Patient Story

Headaches in Children not Normal

By Kelsi Gulig August 28, 2018

Trust a mother’s intuition. Jules Kariher, mother of nine-year-old son, Fisher, knew her son’s painful headaches were not normal headaches.

Matthew Pearson, MD, pediatric neurosurgeon at The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart Pensacola with his patient Fisher Kariher.

When Fisher experienced three migraine-like headaches in the span of three weeks, “something didn’t feel right,” remembers Jules. She called the doctor.

Their pediatrician recommended a brain MRI scan. It’s a painless test that provides a detailed image of the brain. They had it done at Optimal Imaging, located at the Sacred Heart Medical Park at Tiger Point. The radiologist’s interpretation of the brain scan identified a tumor deep in his brain. After consulting with several neurosurgeons around the country, Fisher's parents were told that one of the most skilled pediatric neurosurgeons in the nation was Matthew Pearson, MD, just 20 minutes from their home in Gulf Breeze, Florida. Dr. Pearson’s office is at The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart in Pensacola. He is the only pediatric neurosurgeon in the region. 

“Dr. Pearson is amazing -- wonderful, very calm and personable,” says Jules. The compassionate care was comforting because Fisher had a rare brain tumor. Luckily it turned out to be benign.

After a nine-hour craniotomy and a three-day recovery at the Studer Family Children’s Hospital, Fisher’s parents feared the long-term effects and that he might be different after surgery. “Dr. Pearson told me, ‘I want to return your son to you just as you brought him to me.’ And he did exactly that,” she said.

Before long Fisher was back on the baseball field having fun. When asked a year later what he remembers about the time he spent healing in the hospital, Fisher says, “I liked the nurses the best. They made me feel comfortable and safe, and like everything was going to be alright.” 

To make the recovery process even more personalized, the hospital care team added things that Fisher “likes” to the hospital experience -- a baseball pillowcase on his pillow during recovery and a big painting of a sailboat in his hospital room. 

“People don’t realize the gem we have in our backyard,” said Jules. “We have the best of the best right here! We were Sacred Heart Foundation donors before, but our contribution to the hospital has more meaning today. It is truly a gift from our hearts. We are forever grateful to Dr. Pearson and to everyone at The Studer Family Children’s Hospital for giving us Fisher back healthy and whole.”

Symptoms of Brain Tumor

Headaches in children are not unusual, especially in conjunction with cold, flu and fever. Yet when the headache worsens and / or starts occurring more frequently, talk to your doctor. The symptoms of a brain tumor include:

  • Increased pressure inside the skull, called intracranial pressure (ICP)
  • Vomiting (usually occurs in the morning without nausea)
  • Headache
  • Uncoordinated muscle movements
  • Problems walking

Pediatric Neurosurgery Expertise Close to Home

Matthew Pearson, MDMatthew Pearson, MD

At Sacred Heart Pensacola, Pediatric neurosurgeon Matthew Pearson, MD, provides highly skilled surgical procedures for pediatric brain and spine conditions, including epilepsy. Dr. Pearson received his medical degree from John’s Hopkins University School of Medicine and completed his internship and residency at Vanderbilt University Hospital. He is board certified in neurosurgery and pediatric neurosurgery. Prior to establishing the pediatric neurosurgery program at Sacred Heart in 2013, he was at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. Pearson also specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of newborns with spina bifida, a craniofacial disorder, hydrocephalus, movement disorders, brain tumor or trauma injury.

At Sacred Heart, our pediatric neurosurgery team understands that children aren’t just small adults. Children need a care team that specializes in a compassionate, caring bedside manner. We also have the expertise and the latest surgical technological advancements to do complex procedures.  

Pediatric neurosurgery is one of 30 pediatric subspecialties at Sacred Heart. We care for children of all ages from newborns to teenagers. Learn more about Ascension’s pediatric brain and spine care services in Northwest Florida, call 850-416-2250.