Local doctor, father fights migraine disease in honor of his daughter
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Migraine disease is an invisible illness affecting more than 40 million Americans. A local doctor has teamed up with the Utah Film Center to shed light on the misunderstood disease.
Dr. Dan Henry and the Utah Film Center have partnered together to sponsor the showing of a national documentary called Out of My Head. It plays at the library in downtown Salt Lake City Tuesday night at 7pm.
Henry has worked to shed light on an illness he very familiar with.
Henry’s youngest daughter, Danielle, suffered from severe migraines throughout her life. Her illness became so debilitating she could no longer participate in the sports she loved or attend school regularly.
As a family medicine doctor, Henry did everything he could to find a cure for his daughter.
“I spent most of my free time researching trying to find out answers,” he said.
Sadly, his efforts were unsuccessful. In the last 90 days of her life, she enjoyed only 6 days without a migraine. After enduring so much pain, Danielle ended her life her senior year of high school.
Henry said migraine disease is a very misunderstood illness that gets very little respect.
Some people say, “Gee, suck it up, it’s just a headache!” he said.
Henry clarified it’s not just a headache, but rather a very serious neurological disease.
He said a Diet Coke and Tylenol won’t cut it for people who have migraines.
“[It’s] not compatible with going to school. You can’t hold down a job even part time. Their functional life is at a very, very level,” he explained.
Henry explained that a patient with migraines has a hypersensitive brain affected by anything from light and sound to perfume and weather changes. Symptoms include much more than a painful headache. Many patients suffer from nausea, vomiting, lack of vision, exhaustion, and in severe cases even a stroke.
He said migraine disease is the fifth or sixth leading cause of disability in the United Stated.
After Danielle’s death, Henry decided to devote his entire medical practice to treating patients with migraine disease.
“This is what I was supposed to do in her legacy,” he said with great conviction.
Henry has worked to save the lives of many other patients, like 25-year-old Amanda Chase.
Chase developed her first migraine when she was 12-years-old. She was nauseous, had a pounding headache, threw up, and then slept for hours. Since that day, she has suffered through regular migraines.
In 2015, Chase reached a new low.
She wasn’t going to school and didn’t have a job because of the disease.
“At that point I was so hopeless and I just kind of wanted to give up,” she said.
Chase soon found Dr. Henry, who told her about his daughter, Danielle. She was inspired by his passion for finding answers.
“I know it was so hard for her [Danielle] because I’ve been in her position,” she said.
Danielle’s legacy lives on.
“Because of Danielle, I was able to be better and I’m able to have a life,” said Chase.
Henry has continued to treat hundreds of patients who suffer from the devastating illness. He said he sees his daughter in so many of his patients.
“As long as my body and brain work, I’ll keep doing this,” he said.
With the help of his wife and oldest daughter, Elizabeth, Henry started a foundation in honor of his daughter called the Danielle Byron Migraine Foundation to increase awareness about the disease and to provide support for people living with migraines.
Henry ultimately would like to build a comprehensive migraine treatment center in Utah to treat patients with some of the most difficult migraine cases.