Families with Children Taking a Lead in Advocating for Those with Migraine and Other Headache Diseases
Migraine and other headache diseases can begin well before adulthood. For Robert Pushis, his migraine attacks started at the age of seven. Robert had symptoms of migraine that included aura, head pain, nausea, vomiting and dry heaves. As if the migraine attacks were not bad enough, Robert was bullied in school because his peers thought he looked fine. His migraine attacks were very disabling, which caused him to miss a lot of school. At seven years old, Robert and his family began seeking treatment for his migraine attacks and tried everything they could, but nothing helped. They were living in Indiana at that time.
One of the neurologists Robert saw while living in Indiana suggested that his migraine attacks may be triggered by barometric pressure. Mrs. Pushis had a barometer app on her phone so she could track the weather. The family went on a trip to the Gulf Coast in 2016 to test this theory and discovered that it was true. Robert felt much better in the south. In 2017, the Pushis family went on another vacation to the Gulf Coast to continue the test and found that Robert was again having almost no migraine attacks. Mr. Pushis transferred to work at one of the company’s steel mills in Mississippi. Even though it was difficult, the Pushis family moved to Mississippi in 2017. Robert rarely had a migraine attack after moving to Mississippi. It seemed that when they were in the deep south, Robert felt his best.
Once Robert started feeling better, Hailey (15), his younger sister, and Robert (17) have accomplished quite a lot. Hailey felt inspired to advocate for migraine disease because she admired her older brother. They petitioned the Governor of Mississippi in 2018, 2019, and 2020 to make June Migraine Awareness Month in the state of Mississippi. Their petition was granted each year and in 2019, the family was invited to visit the governor to discuss migraine disease. The family also participated in Headache on the Hill in February 2020 to represent the state of Mississippi. They met with senators and representatives to ask them to support more funding for migraine research and the need for more migraine and headache specialists.
Also, in 2019 Robert and Hailey worked with the United Way to spearhead the first migraine awareness walk in Columbus, MS called “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.” The event was extremely successful with over 300 participants. Hailey participated in the 2019 Miles for Migraine event in Ridgeland, MS. At this event, Hailey was given the Honorary Migraine Warrior award for her advocacy work and was the speaker before the race. Although the event was held virtually in 2020, Hailey participated again.
Hailey searched for an organization she could partner with to continue advocacy and found the Association of Migraine Disorders (AMD). The organization seemed like a perfect fit for Hailey and Robert in their advocacy efforts. With the assistance of the AMD, Hailey and Robert started a local chapter of AMD’s Migraine Club program. AMD provided materials, resources, topic discussions and support for their meetings.
Hailey has participated in beauty pageants since childhood. She now participates in these events, using migraine awareness as her platform. In 2018, Hailey held the title of Miss Natchez Trace’s Outstanding Teen, and in 2019, she held the title of Miss All-America City’s Outstanding Teen. These titles were through the Miss America’s Scholarship Organization and are part of the Miss America franchise. Hailey’s current title is in the 2020 USA National Miss Mississippi Junior Teen. In all of these pageants, migraine advocacy is Hailey’s platform.
In 2018, the Pushis family joined the Association of Migraine Disorders and volunteers at the Today Show in New York City to participate in Shades for Migraine awareness campaign. In 2020, Good Morning America hosted a segment called “Migraine Mystery.” It was reported on by Robin Roberts. A crew of people from Good Morning America came to their home in Columbus, MS to do an interview with Mrs. Pushis, which was featured in the broadcast.
Hailey was nominated for the AMD 2020 Advocacy Award. Hailey and Robert continue to advocate for migraine disorders to reduce stigma and educate the public.
by Peggy Artman