Citizens Memorial Hospital’s Migraine Solution
For Billie Marsh, migraines weren’t a nuisance, they were a debilitating part of her daily life. It took a dedicated doctor to find the treatment that would help her turn a corner.
by Ettie Berneking
Dr. Curtis Schreiber knows a thing or two about migraines. He’s a neurologist with a 30-year history practicing in southwest Missouri, and he’s spent the past 11 years at the Citizens Memorial Hospital Neurology and Headache Center. As he describes it, “headaches are a passion,” and if you ask him about his patient Billie Marsh, he’ll tell you there’s a long story and a short story.
The long story dates back to 1991 when Schreiber completed his residency at Mayo Clinic. At that time, he says there weren’t many treatment options for patients suffering from migraines. Then in 1992, there was a breakthrough. A new drug called Imitrex came onto the market. “It was the very first medication that was specifically designed to work on migraine headaches,” Schreiber says, adding that the work on the initial studies was done in Springfield by Roger Cady. Unfortunately, this new wonder drug didn’t work for everyone, and it would be another 26 years before another treatment was developed.
This is where Billie Marsh comes in. Marsh was referred to Schreiber in 2004. Her migraines were a daily occurrence. “I had a constant headache all the time,” she says. “On some days, the headache would be debilitating.” When Marsh showed up at Schreiber’s office, she’d tried just about every treatment available. They had all failed her. The biggest cause of her headaches was stress, and as a graphic designer at the Bolivar Herald-Free Press, Marsh says work was the biggest stressor. She’d tried everything over the years to find relief, including getting a specific spot on her ear pierced. She’d heard through the grapevine that it should help, but it didn’t. “I have a friend in Bolivar who also has headaches, and we talk all the time about the things we’ve each tried,” Marsh says. “It’s crazy the amount of people who struggle with headaches.”
When Marsh arrived at Schreiber’s office, she was willing to try anything. “Honestly, there wasn’t a lot that helped at that time,” she says. Even the botox, which was supposed to help, didn’t lessen the pain. “There was a point where she would come up to Bolivar every seven weeks to get 35 shots in her head,” Schreiber says. “Sometimes we had improvements and sometimes it was discouraging.”
Finally, in 2018 the dry spell in the world of migraine treatment was over. A new drug was released—one developed specifically for migraine treatment. “That’s when we turned the corner for Billie Marsh,” Schreiber says. “As soon as we got the new treatment, she was one of the very first patients to try this.” Finally, after 20 years, Marsh could get through a day without having a painful headache. Even better, now when she does feel a migraine coming on, Marsh says she can pop a Tylenol and go about her day. “That’s never happened before,” she says.
For Marsh, who has spent nearly two decades as a patient of Schreiber’s, what she appreciated most was his willingness to try just about anything. That even extends to his nurse, Nancy Motley. “She was awesome,” Marsh says. “When insurance wouldn’t pay for the new medication, Nancy jumped through all kinds of hoops to help.” Motley eventually got Engality to pick up the entire cost of the medication, which rang in at $600 a month. Now, Marsh’s insurance is footing the bill, and Marsh only has to pay $30 a month.
“I have four grandkids, and it doesn’t matter if they come over screaming,” she says. “I don’t have a headache anymore. Dr. Schreiber is the most awesome doctor. He kept trying one thing after another until we found something that worked.”
So that’s the long story of Billie Marsh and her persistent headaches. The short story according to Schreiber is this: “She hung in there, and then the world changed.”
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