Local girl launches ‘Making a Difference with Morgan’

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
With the support of her parents, Derek and Tammy Gautreau, and siblings, Madeline, 5, and Myles, 10, Morgan spoke bravely before the whole school, sharing her story.

Morgan Gautreau is 13 years old, and is in eighth grade at St. Theresa Middle School in Gonzales. On Friday, Sept. 27, she launched “Making a Difference with Morgan” – a fundraiser to help find a cure for spina bifida.

“You may have heard of people talking about this kid who has had to miss school up to a month at a time and maybe even more. You may be wondering who that kid is. That’s me,” she said, speaking at her school’s morning assembly.

With the support of her parents, Derek and Tammy Gautreau, and siblings, Madeline, 5, and Myles, 10, Morgan spoke bravely before the whole school, sharing her story.

Morgan started showing signs of spina bifida early in childhood, then all of a sudden spiraled downhill to a point where she was in severe pain and sent to a neurologist for an MRI.

“The nurses told us that my doctor would call us in a couple of days with the results,” she said. “Dr. Wood called my mom the next day. He told her I had a lipoma tumor.”

Morgan was told she needed to have surgery to stop her pain, and then sent to a neurosurgeon in New Orleans.

“I was scared that he would tell me that he wouldn’t be able to operate on me,” she said. “He walked into the room and diagnosed me with a tethered spinal cord and spina bifida.”

She explained that spina bifida is a general term used to describe a congenital form of birth defects. The cause of spina bifida is unknown, with a few different forms affecting individuals differently.

Morgan said her first surgery took place Feb. 10, 2010, requiring a lengthy hospital stay.

“After my first surgery I was so happy, I thought it was all over – I could be a kid again,” she explained. “Little did I know my problems were just starting.”

After a second surgery, July 14, 2011, Morgan’s doctors told her there was nothing else they could do for her reoccurring pain. She was referred to a children’s hospital in Birmingham, Ala., for pain management.

“Our experience in Alabama was not so good,” she said. “Pain management was not acceptable, so we decided to take it into our own hands.”

Morgan said her family began emailing the best children’s hospitals in the world, including Boston Children’s Hospital.

“Time finally passed by and I was on a plane to Boston,” she said. “When I got there, it was a totally different atmosphere. The weather was different and the environment was nothing like Louisiana down in the south. Immediately when I walked into Boston Children’s Hospital, it felt like home. I just had the feeling this was the right place.”

Morgan required a third spinal cord surgery in Boston.

“It was worth it, though, because it relieved me of all pain,” she said. “After the surgery, I immediately became apart of the spina bifida clinic. The spina bifida clinic is my neurosurgeon and my urologist, and a team of doctors that work together because when a kid has spina bifida, it causes a lot of other complications.”

One of the complications, she said was bladder problems, which required another surgery prior to the back surgery.

“It totally relieved me from back pain once again,” she said. “I’m still pain free and I hope it stays that way for awhile. I’m unsure of what my future holds, but I’m positive that God walks beside me.”

Morgan said her spina bifida is very rare.

“According to my neurosurgeon, less than five percent of the world has had spinal cord retetherings four times in a row, four years in a row,” she said. “Although my past four years have been a struggle, I’m very blessed that I still have the ability to stand up here before you today because most patients with spina bifida are unable to walk.”

Thinking about how hard it is for most spina bifida patients, she decided to launch “Making a Difference for Morgan” – a school-wide fundraiser on Oct. 22, where students can pay $1 to wear a yellow shirt, or $2 to wear a yellow shirt with jeans and choice of shoes. St. John Primary students can also participate.

All of the donations will go to the spina bifida program at Boston Children’s Hospital. Anyone in the community wishing to support Morgan’s fundraiser may do so online at http://howtohelp.choledochoplasty.org/events/page/Tammy-Gautreau/makingadifference.htm.

Everyone participating in the fundraiser will have their names entered into a drawing for to win three LSU tickets and a parking pass for the game on Oct. 26, against Furman.

Morgan said her fundraising goal is $1,000.

“The support and prayers of this school have helped me through my journey,” she told the crowd at the assembly. “I’m also very grateful for my parents because they have always believed in me and given me strength. My extended family always pulls through and helps mom and dad with whatever they need.”