Carmen responded immediately to a cost-effective prescription drug used to control cyclical vomiting.

“It’s the stomach flu” I said into the telephone receiver when I called Carmen’s school to inform them of her Thursday absence. “She should be feeling better tomorrow.”

“Great!” I thought to myself …. “how am I going to keep the rest of the family from contracting the bug?” I wiped down the bathroom with disinfectant wipes in hopes of banishing the 24-hour virus from our home. Little did I know this was just the start of our journey with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and a brilliant man named Dr. Li.

Looking back at that first day of illness, I remember Carmen complaining of an upset stomach in the weeks prior to her vomiting. It was nothing to be concerned about at the time … she was able to go to school, basketball practice and swimming.

On Friday morning, Carmen woke up early — 4 a.m. to be exact. I heard her in the upstairs bath trying to get sick — her face was a pasty white and grey … she felt horrible. “I just want to throw up so the pain will go away!” Carmen pleaded. Dry heaves produced no relief. Carmen returned to her bed and curled up in a ball hoping that sleep would come and take away the nauseous feeling.

I placed another phone call to school telling them Carmen still had the stomach flu and would not be in. No worries, I thought to myself …. this flu bug is more stubborn than I originally thought.

The weekend proved to be more of the same — waking before dawn with an ashen colored face and nauseous stomach, throwing up to get relief, curling up in a ball in bed to feel better. This was clearly not the flu as I originally thought.

The next week, we saw our pediatrician who rightly assumed Carmen had a relapse of acid reflux which she suffered from as an infant. Meds were prescribed and taken for two weeks, but the nausea and vomiting continued.

At this point, our pediatrician referred us to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Within the hour, I received a phone call from someone in the Gastroenterology Program advising me that an appointment was available later that morning with Dr. Li. I started to feel a tinge of hope knowing we were on our way to finding the source of Carmen’s illness. We jumped in the car and headed to Children’s.

Dr. Li empathetically listened and took notes as we described Carmen’s symptoms and illness. He asked detailed questions to get the full picture of what we were dealing with. When he finished, Dr. Li said that even though Carmen did not display the exact cyclical characteristics, he thought she was suffering from abdominal migraines … a condition I had never heard of before. He suggested that rather than running an expensive series of gastrointestinal (GI) tests, it would be worth trying a cost-effective prescription drug used to control cyclical vomiting. Carmen needed an EKG prior to starting the medication and would be seen in a month for follow-up.

“Dr. Li is a god-send!” I told our friends and family. Carmen responded immediately to the medication. The nausea and vomiting was completely controlled. “I felt like I was back to my old self again” Carmen recalls. Dr. Li told us a case like Carmen’s would typically go undiagnosed for years because of the unusual characteristics. He said some children suffer for a long time before landing on this diagnosis.

I can’t say enough about our experience with Dr. Li and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. We appreciate everything you do!

Mark your calendar

The Dave & Carole Miracle Marathon is a 36-hour radiothon occurring this Thursday and Friday that benefits the variety of programs and services provided by Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. I encourage you to tune in and listen to hear more stories about how Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is making a difference in the lives of children.

~ Michelle Libesch, guest blogger


Abdominal migraines: Dr. Li to the rescue — 5 Comments

  1. Hi Michelle,

    I am so glad to hear your daughter is doing better. I met Dr. Li in March while my daughter was getting a 5 day IV migraine treatment arranged by another doctor. Laura lost a lot of weight rapidly and her heart rate went dangerously low. She responded well, but has to go in again now. Can you share with me the medication Dr. Li recommended? I would love to find something that will avoid a 5 day inpatient stay!



  2. Hi Shari — so sorry to hear your daughter needs another treatment. Carmen was prescribed amitriptylene. She is completely controlled at 20 mgs. Carmen takes the medication at bedtime because it makes her drowsy.

    This summer we are going to try a supplement, coq10, which has shown great promise in controlling Abdominal migraines.

    I hope and pray your daughter, Laura gets relief from her migraines.


  3. Hi Dr Li
    My daughter is 17 and has been vomiting in cycles of initially every two weeks for 10 days to every 6 weeks for about 6 days. Will this condition go away on its own or should we try fat free diet and vitamins? Has this been known to help? What therapy do you recommend – does she need a therapist – has this cured people in the past.
    I look forward to your reply
    Kind regards
    Juliet Coe

  4. Hi. My daughter is 6, and has just been diagnosed with abdominal migraines. She has been suffering from episodes every 2 weeks or so of severe stomach pain and vomiting,lasting about an hour and has no symptoms at all between episodes. She has had a lot of testing, all negative. They did just put her on CoQ10 and carnitine, I am joping these will help. It has been so frustrating, during the episodes nothing helps and the pain is so severe, we have been to the ER twice. Same pattern every time. So glad we finally have a diagnosis and hopefully a good treatment.

  5. My daughter is 5 and we have been having an episode for 10 days now. What do you guys suggest I try? She is on amitriptiline right now, and is being referred to Wis Child Hosp this upcoming week. In the meantime, what else can I do? Also, what is the coq10 that you are going to try Michelle?