Migraine Story

It’s started as any normal headache. Aching in my forehead and temples, but then my left eye kicked in. I get migraines and when my left eye starts hurting and I get nauseated, I know what’s going to happen.

I usually have something at home for the migraine. Something for nausea, something for pain and until my by-pass surgery I had something specifically for migraines. Now I can’t take that. I took what I had and unfortunately it came back up. When this happens I have two choices. One is to try and make it through the pain and nausea. If you’ve ever had a migraine you know that’s not a choice. The other is a trip to the emergency room. I hate going to the emergency room because it’s like a crapshoot.

When you see an emergency room physician for a migraine there are usually three types. It has been my experience that since they can’t measure pain, they veer on the side of the least is best.

The first doctor will believe you are lying and only trying to get some pain medicine, so they do the least for you they can, in which case you spend an extra 3 to 4 hours in the Emergency Room while they experiment with different drugs to stop the migraine. Through the pain you can tell them what works, but that’s the worst mistake you can make. A lot of doctors don’t like to be told how to apply treatment, especially when it comes to administering a pain medicine. If you mention any medicine by name, you’ve lost the battle and your migraine will just get worse while you are in one of the most stressful places you can be.

The second doctor is more sympathetic and want’s to know all about it. That doctor will listen to you and find out what works. Sometimes I think there are two types of this doctor also. One does care and wants to help relieve your symptoms as soon as possible. The other just wants to get you out of the Emergency Room to lighten their patient load or make room for other patients.

The third doctor just doesn’t care and you can hurt forever. This type of doctor will give you ibuprofen and send you straight home.

Anyway, with the last migraine I had to take the second choice and go to the Emergency Room. This is a brief story of what a bad emergency room visit can be like.

When the pain starts to become unbearable I have my brother drive me the 35 miles to an Emergency Room. During the drive my blood pressure and heartbeat are high. With each heartbeat my left eye feels like an ice pick is being stabbed into it and the left side of my head pounds. I’m past reasonable thought. I’m starting to panic because the pain is so bad and getting worse. I hold my breath and strain. This gives just a little bit of relief, but it’s better than nothing. I have a small trashcan in the car with me because of the nausea and vomiting. By this time I’m just dry heaving and actually I look forward to this. Each time my body convulses from the nausea there is a second of freedom from the pain. Now and then I hit my head against the car window. That also brings a second of relief. That one-second is all I can think about.

Of the three major hospitals in the city, I use one where my doctor works. This time the parking lot is full and I know besides the one to three hours I will be in treatment; there will be an additional one to two hours to get into the treatment room. So my brother drives me to another hospital’s Emergency Room.

We go to the second hospital and actually get in fairly fast, about forty five minutes. Once inside I wait another 30 minutes until the doctor comes in. He begins by asking me what’s wrong and whom have I seen for this before. I give him the name of my doctor and the hospital he works at. He asks why I didn’t go to that hospital and I told him about the ER parking lot being full. All of a sudden I know I have the first type of doctor. He tells me he’s going to call the other hospital’s ER. I don’t care what he does just as long as he stops the pain and the nausea. I can’t hear him call the other ER, but I do hear him later talking to someone outside the room. All I can make out is “This guy with the headache.” A nurse finally comes in and takes my blood pressure and pulse and it’s very high. The doctor comes back and starts talking to me. By this time I can barely understand what he’s saying. I’m in a world of pain. The doctor’s voice, the noise of people outside the room, the light in the room are overwhelming. I catch high blood pressure and I tell him it always shoots high when I have a migraine. That once the pain is gone, the blood pressure will go down. He leaves.

A nurse comes in later with a syringe and gives me a shot. I ask him what it is. I just made a mistake! If you ask what treatment you are being giving it solidifies in their minds you are seeking something other than pain relief. The nurse tells me it is a narcotic and something for nausea. I don’t really care what they give me as long as it stops the pain.

Thirty minutes later the nurse comes back and asks how I feel. When you have a migraine it’s about pain reduction. I tell him my headache is still where it was and I’m still nauseated. He takes my blood pressure again and it has jumped up 20 points on the top and bottom numbers. He leaves. He comes back later and gives me three pills. One is for blood pressure and two are for nausea. By this time I’ve been in the ER for over three hours. In that time my migraine is getting worse. The nurse asks me what is usually done and I tell him once the pain is under control, I’m given something for sleep to take as soon as I get home and something for pain for later. I just made another mistake! The doctor is already treating me like a drug addict. I shouldn’t have said anything. The nurse comes back after another 20-30 minutes and gives me prescriptions for sleeping pills, a sedative combined with Tylenol, and pills and suppositories for nausea. I still have no relief from the pain. The nausea is better. It after 10:30 pm and my brother and I leave and go to a pharmacy to fill the prescriptions. I take one of each pill hoping to stop the pain. On the drive home I can only rock back and forth from the pain.

We arrive at home and I go to my bedroom, sit, and rock. I can’t lie down because it hurts worse. That one-second is all I want. The sleeping pill doesn’t put me to sleep and the sedative with the Tylenol doesn’t stop the pain. I have another full day of pain and nausea and in that day all I want is just one second.

OBSERVATIONS

After having migraines for over twenty years you learn about ER visits. There are certain things you expect, don’t expect and that are a total surprise. There are certain things you do and don’t do.

These are some observations:

  1. A migraine is pure unadulterated pain. There is nothing brave or noble about trying to take the pain. If an avenue of pain relief is open to you – take it!
  2. An ER migraine visit is a crapshoot. You might leave the ER in less pain or much worse pain.
  3. You never go to the ER when your migraine is just starting. Unless you are in obvious distress most doctors will be very skeptical of you when you are in low to moderate pain.
  4. Most doctors and nurses are there to help seriously ill or life threatened patients. Most of the time your migraine will be viewed as minor compared to other people’s ailments. Be prepared to wait and make no demands.
  5. You can’t take your treatment into your own hand or suggest any treatment. You’re at the mercy of the medical establishment.
  6. You can’t ask what treatment you are being given. This adds to the doctor’s skepticism and that will temper any further treatment they give you.
  7. If your doctor wants to experiment with different medicines, agree. You might get lucky and one works. If not, by disagreeing or telling them you’ve tried it before and it didn’t work, the skepticism factor goes up. Know during this experimentation that the pain will get worse.
  8. Whenever you go to an ER with a migraine don’t take for granted that everyone there will want to help you. To some ER workers you are just another body.
  9. If you have a doctor that treats you like a drug addict or simply doesn’t care, get out of the ER as soon as possible. You’re in a very tense place and you don’t need anyone’s arrogance or antagonism. You need a quite relaxing place. Get home ASAP.
  10. As with most migraines there’s no telling when they will strike. If you have a choice go to your regular doctor. They treat and have been treating you for this. They have the drill down and you save yourself from much more pain. If you have no choice, go to the ER. You might end up with the same bad doctor, but at least you have a chance of another doctor being on duty that might be sympathetic.
  11. First and last understand that you don’t have the luxury of finding another doctor or another treatment. You are stuck with what you were given. At the worst, be prepared to suffer longer and more intensely. At the best, you will be treated by caring individuals who will undertake to quickly relieve your pain.
This entry was posted in Health Issues, Migraine Headaches.

28 Comments

  1. katiebird February 25, 2006 at 4:18 pm #

    FamilyMan — I am so sorry that you suffer like this. I’ve always felt luck that I don’t get them (although I do get terrible headaches, they aren’t migraines) — they run in my family. There’s something I didn’t tell you the other day and I should have.

    My father read about and has used what he considers a cure for migraine headaches. He swears by the effectiveness of this remedy:

    When he first feels that pre-migraine feeling he fills a bowl with ice and water (in the winter tap water comes out cold enough)

    Then he runs the water as hot as he can stand and puts his head under it. He keeps it there for several minutes.

    Then immediately dunks or pours the freezing water over his head.

    This immediately takes the headache away. Occasionally it comes back, but he can keep functioning by repeated treatments.

    It works best if the headache is caught at that pre-migraine stage (my dad stops whatever he’s doing to take a treatment when he feels those early symptoms), but it will make all headache pain more bearable even if caught in the later.

  2. LauraM February 25, 2006 at 4:47 pm #

    Ugh! I get migraines but not nearly as bad as yours and with none of the accompanying visual or stomach disturbances. It sounds like you are being treated poorly by your local hospital. I can understand them being suspicious of people only looking for pain meds, but can’t you carry a medical history with you from your regular doctor so you don’t have to go through all of that humilating crap every time you go to the ER?

    Have you considered joining a clinical trial? Or going to a headache clinic? Certainly they would be more knowledgeable and sympathetic than the bozos in the ER.

  3. DuctapeFatwa February 25, 2006 at 5:14 pm #

    FamilyMan, reading your story I could not stop tears from my eyes. Pain is pain, regardless of the cause or the location, and yours is one of the most heart-rending, stomach churning and inpeccably accurate descriptions of it I have read.

    I don’t care what it takes, you MUST find someone, somewhere who can treat your condition, if it cannot be cured, it is imperative that you control it, that a way be found to at least bring the pain down to a level where you can function.

    Try it all. kbird’s father’s alternating hot and cold water treatment, interestingly, is suggested for people with mild neuropathy. For worse cases, it only brings that “one second” that I am all too intimately familiar with.

    The principle is the same as the TENS unit some people are given for back pain. It fools the nerves by stimulating them with something else. If you have prodromal symptoms at all, or even if you don’t, it is worth a shot.

    Anything is worth a shot, as you are all to familiar with.

    Homeopathy, eastern medicine, whatever. Try it. Eastern medicine has been around a lot longer. Seek recommendations to avoid quacks, and travel to the nearest city, visit an acupuncurist, a Chinese herbalist, an Ayurvedic practitioner. There are thousands of years of experience there, thousands of years of science. See if it can benefit you, if not heal you, at least treat your symptoms.

    The societal symptom of the issues regarding medical personnel and pain control could be its own diary, it could be several, actually. About the best thing I can say in that regard is that once you get old enough, they don’t suspect you of wanting to get high.

    But I want you to have a reliable and effective method of controlling the pain of those goddamn things long before you reach the age where they don’t give a damn what they give you.

    You have been much in my thoughts lately, and my prayers, and after reading this, you will be always a regular feature in the latter.

    I suggest you get started by finding a migraine support group, either on or offline, preferably off, though it would involve travel, in your nearest city, which would probably be Atlanta. That might be the best place to inquire about the best practitioners of Ayurvedics, etc since those are the people most likely to have investigated this for the same disorder that you suffer from. Ask your insurance, of course, but if they will not cover it, run up your credit card, get another one and run that one up too, if need be. These practitioners are not going to be more expensive than the western medical shamans, and will probably be less.

  4. katiebird February 25, 2006 at 5:49 pm #

    FamilyMan — I keep reading your story and find more everytime. I feel like getting on a plane to come and do — something, I don’t know what. There must be an answer, a cure. I’m wondering if maybe I have had migraine and have just been incapable of describing the pain. Because what you describe sounds so familiar. Right down to a trip to ER with my son driving. (I’d forgotten about my dad’s treatment)

    But, for me those are rare, very rare occasions. Never recurring like yours. Your ability to describe what you’re experiencing has got to be a help (even if you feel it isn’t.)

    And I agree with everything Ductape said. Especially the part about support groups. Especially if you can find a local one, they might be able to share advice about especially good doctors. I know, I’m dreaming there. . . .

    I think one of the worst things about drug addicts is impact they’ve had on pain sufferers. Isn’t it horrible enough to suffer unbearable pain? But to be treated with suspicion as well — the indignity is totally unfair.

  5. DuctapeFatwa February 25, 2006 at 6:19 pm #

    kbird that is a good point. It has had an impact, but I think the intent is not so much to prevent people who seek drugs for recreation or addiction from getting them, but – no surprise here – greed.

    When they gave me the prescription for OxyContin they spent more time warning me about not letting anyone know I have it, not carrying any around with me, even inquiring as to the size and intimidation potential of the descendant who would accompany me to the pharmacy. (Because of low vision, and lately, medications, I do not operate motor vehicles, as a courtesy to other road users who may have a preference for longer life)

    All these warnings had to do, they said, with the high street price of what is basically a slow release version of an inexpensive pain medication that I guess does not have such a high street value, since it did not come with any warning speeches.

    My point is, that pharmaceutical drugs are available on the street for people seeking them for non-medical purposes. I don’t know what the street price is, but it is hard to imagine it is higher than the cost of a trip to the emergency room.

    Still, it is high enough so that apparently it is more profitable to increase the probability of the opposite behavior, and send patients with actual medical problems onto the street to obtain pain medication.

    There was a story not too long ago of a guy, can’t find link, sorry, who had a spinal injury, and as a result suffered from neuropathic pain in his whole legs. When he moved to Florida, his doctor agreed to continue to prescribe his medicine, and even gave him a prescription pad of signed ones, because both knew it would be a problem. Even with the prescriptions, his consumption was “suspicious,” he was arrested, the doctor intimidated so that he claimed no knowledge, and the patient is now serving a quarter century sentence in prison, where ironically, he now has a morphine pump, and his pain is controlled at last.

    As I said, this subject could be several diaries.

  6. FamilyMan February 25, 2006 at 7:07 pm #

    Hello KB and DTF. I just woke up from a little nap. Thank you so much for just reading and understanding my story. KB as I said in a reply email to you I will definitely try your father’s remedy. DTF I read the same thing about the guy in jail because of his pain and thought what has our government come to. I know that’s a stupid thought.

    That story was the last bad ER room visit I had. I have a very understanding GP now and even if I wake up in the middle of the night with a full blown migraine, I will suffer through until she opens her office. Many years ago I once had a doctor come into the ER room and told me “I heard you have a headache and I don’t believe in giving any narcotic for headaches”. I told him I don’t care if you hold a dead chicken over my head and chant, just stop the pain.

    I do think one of the reasons so many dotors are hesitant is because of the government. Doctors are so afraid to treat constant pain because of the DEA. You are always reading about some doctors arrested that run pain clinics. I know with my present Neurologist I had to read and sign a two page agreement about treatment just to protect him about such a thing.

    KB – Thanks for doing that break for me. I just couldn’t figure it out for some reason.

  7. katiebird February 25, 2006 at 7:13 pm #

    FamilyMan, the MORE tag doesn’t work for everyone. We don’t know if it’s a browser issue or what. I hope that no one lets problems with that stop them from posting a story. XXOO katiebird

  8. FARfetched February 25, 2006 at 7:19 pm #

    MDieties, I’ve heard them called.

    I’m glad you have a GP who gets it, now.

    I’ve had migraines, so my eye doctor told me they were — but they don’t hurt, all they do is put a shimmery line where it’s hard to see around. I’ve noticed that ever since I got on the BP meds, I haven’t had one at all… perhaps instead of the migraine spiking your blood pressure, it’s your blood pressure bringing on the headache???

    Hope you figure it out, anyway. I’ve said a prayer for you as I sit here.

  9. FamilyMan February 25, 2006 at 7:22 pm #

    LauraM – I asked my doctor about something to carry to explain my migraines. He told me he could not do something like that and I could understand his point. The thing I do now is I have the complete list of my medicines, from heart medicines to migraine medicines, and a listing of every doctor I see on a laminated card sized piece of paper in my wallet. I have such a hard time remember even the daily medicines, dosages and times that I always print out a sheet with all the current stuff before I go to see any doctor. That save me lugging in a sack full of medicines. I have found that card helped in the past once they see the doctors name, phone number, addresses and the listing of medicines. Plus during a full blown migraine speaking is difficult, so the card seems to save time.

  10. FamilyMan February 25, 2006 at 7:43 pm #

    Farfetched that’s for your prayers, and DTF and KB and everyone. With my current blood pressure medicine I pretty much have that under control. It’s the intense pain that pushes my BP and pulse up, even with my BP medicine. This sounds a little crazy and I haven’t even verbalized it to my doctor, but I’m always afraid during a migraine about a stroke. The highest my BP has been during one is 240/138 with a pulse of 145. This is even with taking my normal BP medicines. As I said before, now I’m in a pretty good place, because I do have medicine at home to stop the pain and nausea. For many years when I was younger, the doctors wouldn’t do that. They would say if you get one go to the ER.

  11. DuctapeFatwa February 25, 2006 at 7:45 pm #

    FamilyMan, I do not understand his point. Why can he not give you a thing to carry around outlining your condition and the treatment you are under?

    And yes, it is the “government,” and yes it is about money. If wish to refill even percocet, the doctors cannot call it in to the drugstore. They cannot even leave it for me at the desk. I must make an appointment and be examined, whether there is any medical reason for that or not, and personally be handed the new prescription after being examined. There is no reason for this “law” other than to give the shamans a chance to get another office visit fee. Don’t even let me start.

  12. FamilyMan February 25, 2006 at 8:06 pm #

    His reasoning was that if someone else got hold of it, it might be used by them. I know of the having to go to the doctors office to pick up the prescription. Even as understanding as my family doctor is, she has to take her lead from the Neurologist. If my Neurologist decided tomorrow he didn’t like me or I smelled bad, he could send his report to my family doctor and basically cut out any form of pain relief I have. Then it would go back to the ER visits and thank god I haven’t had to do one of those in a while.

  13. DuctapeFatwa February 26, 2006 at 2:51 am #

    I am curious, what did the two page agreement say?

    And I hope you will never have to go through ER hell again.

    Laura how are you doing with your medicine? Have you been able to find one that does not make you throw up or feel weird?

  14. FamilyMan February 26, 2006 at 8:47 am #

    DFT it’s been a long time since I signed it, but it had to do with the treatment he gave and the main thing I can remember is once he stops prescribing any type of medicine, then you agree with his decision. It had a bit of legalese in it, so just to see the guy you aren’t sure if you’re signing your house away or not.

  15. DuctapeFatwa February 26, 2006 at 9:35 am #

    As the young people say “Ewwwww.” The agreement about medication seems especially stupid. If he stops prescribing something, whether you agree or not, you don’t have much choice, you could seek another practitioner or go without the medication.

    Somebody should do a pain control article. It is a disgrace the way it is addressed – or not – in the US.

  16. FamilyMan February 26, 2006 at 9:43 am #

    I completely agree with you. There really isn’t much choice. As far as the pain articles, the best writer I know of is in the comments above me :).

  17. katiebird February 26, 2006 at 9:44 am #

    Yes.

  18. DuctapeFatwa February 26, 2006 at 9:52 am #

    LOL You think flattery will get you a pain article? Thank you for the compliment, and I might do it, but you have more experience.

    That doesn’t sound very nice, but you know what I mean. I am just finding out these things. I was shocked when they told me I would have to actually make an unecessary visit to the doctors just to get a prescription reflled – and not because the doctors feel it is needed, but because the politicians apparently made some deal.

  19. katiebird February 26, 2006 at 9:54 am #

    Maybe it could be a joint project?

  20. FamilyMan February 26, 2006 at 10:05 am #

    I’ll tell you what. Yes DTF I was hoping flattery would do the trick, but…. I’ll start by looking up articles on anything I can find and trying to put it in a coherent form. KB the reason I sent you the migraine story is because I don’t consider myself a good writer. I’m just to the point of where I think my comments are good enough to put up. However, I know everyone is busy, but if I do the research and someone will help to make it a readable diary I will be happy to start.

  21. katiebird February 26, 2006 at 10:08 am #

    FamilyMan — you take your skills for granted and don’t give yourself nearly enough credit. Your story stayed with me all night and in my dreams, I was searching for headache relief. How could your writing be more effective than that?

  22. FamilyMan February 26, 2006 at 10:17 am #

    I humbly thank you KB and I think you are trying to use the DTF flattery thing on me now. Honestly, I am painfully aware of my limited education and I know my writing skills are somewhat deficient at times. I will read what I write and cringe sometimes. Your praise gives me the courage to give it a try with more diaries, and for that you have my undying thanks.

  23. DuctapeFatwa February 26, 2006 at 10:21 am #

    FamilyMan, you don’t WHAT? I disagree. Emphatically. And what katie said.

    That was some incredible word writing, it made me cry.

    Just your personal experiences with pain control issues with maybe a link about that guy in Florida, who I think of every day.

    You have dealt with this not only in the ER, in comparison I just found out about the doctor visit required for refill thing a couple of weeks ago, and from the bit I have read about the issue, my experiences have been cake, and compared to yours, Southeast Asian-French colonial fusion cake, devils food cake with marshmallow frosting, black forest, lady baltimore cake!

    Doctors, at least mine, do not give a cheneyfart what or how much of it they give an old man that they are not entirely sure has not already expired and is deceiving them. With the exception of that stupid legal requiremen, I could call them tomorrow and say the Ocycontin is not strong enough and they would give me a stronger one without thinking twice, as long as I went there and submitted to the required examination.

    So other than the medical aspect of actual pain control, I don’t have much of a story to tell, and will not, inshallah, but you have a whole trunkful of them.

  24. DuctapeFatwa February 26, 2006 at 10:28 am #

    FamilyMan, when you speak of limited education, forgive me if I am making assumptions about you, but I think you are talking about formal education, which has nothing to do with writing ability beyond offering grammar tips.

    The ability to write words well is a gift, and no amount of education can bestow it on you, God does that, and no lack of formal education can take it away or make it absent. As you have already learned, if anything “teaches” you to write, it is reading. But most of it is like having black eyes, or not having a chin like Jay Leno.

    Don’t worry about cringing, just cringe and keep writing. If it really bothers you, send it to katie and ask if it makes her cringe, or me. Or anybody. I write things that make me cringe a lot, and sometimes those are the very things that say something to other people. Anyway, you have a gift. You didn’t do anything to get it, just like you didn’t do anything to get your eye color, but you have a responsibility to share it, even with typos.

  25. FamilyMan February 26, 2006 at 10:29 am #

    OK you both turned the flattery thing around on me – Darn. Don’t you hate it when your sly little plan backfires on you.

    I’ll start on the research and put into words more about migraines and pain management. But, KB I’m going to email the finished product to you for your perusal and any suggestions.

    And now I have to start cleaning the house. The entire family will be here in a couple of hours.

  26. katiebird February 26, 2006 at 11:01 am #

    I’ll be happy to read your draft (or drafts) whenever you’re ready. (I hope you’re off having fun house cleaning)

  27. FARfetched February 27, 2006 at 11:05 am #

    I do technical writing for a living, and I’m pretty picky about other people’s stuff (territory issues)… but your story had no writing faux pas that jumped out at me. It’s like DTF said, either you can tell a story or you can’t… and most people can tell a story when they live it like you have…. and you told it well.

  28. FamilyMan February 27, 2006 at 11:45 am #

    Thank you FARfetched for your kind words. Since I’ve been on the blogs I’ve seen so many intelligent, brilliant writers I was a little intimidated. You words have added to my growing confidence, and for that you have my sincere gratitude.