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Clumsiness

Clumsiness

Though I have been known to have (very) occasional moments of grace, I am not usually described as “graceful.”  In fact, if we were to create a scale where 0 is the most graceful ballet dancer on earth and 10 is someone who can barely take a step without tripping, I’m probably about a 6 most days.  I drop stuff multiple times a day, and if you can name a time when I poured water from the pitcher into my bottle without spilling on the floor, I’ll give you five bucks.

I take my clumsiness in stride, occasionally thinking to myself at my more awkward moments, “I don’t remember always being this clumsy…”

Perhaps I should have stuck with the ballet class I started (and ended) when I was in preschool.  Maybe then I could have better posture and grace.

Or maybe my illness, migraine disease, would’ve made me clumsy no matter what.


After years of joking about my clumsiness (and a lifetime of asking my mom to carry my tray at buffet restaurants because I was scared I’d drop it—no joke), I started noticing that other migraineurs here on migraine.com and out in the real world were bringing up their clumsiness more often.  Anecdotally speaking, many migraineurs seem to experience this clumsiness during the prodrome phase.  Others, like me, seem to have the clumsiness at various stages of the migraine (and the level of clumsiness may not be consistent from one phase to the next or even one migraine attack to the next).

In doing an online migraine diary recently, I was clicking check-boxes that show common signs of migraine.  I looked through the list and was surprised to see clumsiness on the list.  It was the first time I had seen it as a recognized migraine feature and not just something people mention in passing.

So now I’m here to ask you if you become more clumsy as a result of a migraine attack.  Is the clumsiness part of your prodrome or aura?  Are you like one of my blog readers who tends to realize a migraine is setting in only after she drops something in the kitchen?

You may know that I also have an autoimmune condition called psoriatic arthritis—we arthritic folks talk about having “the dropsies.”  No, that’s not some terrible nickname for a nineteenth century stomach ailment.  Rather, it’s a silly word for the way we lose our grip on something all of a sudden.  Now that my arthritis symptoms are temporarily at bay (knock on wood), I am noticing that I still have the dropsies.  This has made me wonder if the clumsiness is related to migraine, which I deal with much more regularly, or if it’s just one of my trademark traits I’d have whether or not I was a migraineur.

What has your experience been like? Do you consider yourself to be a clumsy person? Do your movements become less refined during an attack?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • tulin2
    1 year ago

    my son says I have been clumsy “Before the attack during the prodome phase, during the attack and after the attack during the postdome phase” for all his life (33 years). I have bruises on my upper arms that look suspicious, but are from walking into high placed European door handles.

  • Bronco70
    3 years ago

    Wow! A reason for tripping over pattern in a carpet, misjudging how close that handle really was…….I’ve blamed it on being in too much of a hurry. or just clumsiness! Thank you!!

  • bigsue
    3 years ago

    I’ve just run into this post, and weirdly, it’s cheered me up some. I’m not the only normal person who whacks my elbow, bangs my knees, trips, runs into things, has trouble going downstairs (escalators, hate ’em), and hits my head. I’ve had migraine since I was 16, now 57 and still learning about it. Thanks.

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    3 years ago

    Thank you bigsue for taking the time to share! I am happy to hear you stumbled upon this article & that could relate (unfortunately all to well)! It is always reassuring to learn you are not alone when it comes to experiencing bouts of clumsiness and many other symptoms! Effectiveness of treatment, symptoms, frequency, etc. certainly change over time as well, and as you mentioned, despite living with migraine for over 40 years…there is still more to always learn! Thank you for being part of our community !
    Take care,
    Joanna (Migraine.com Team)

  • Lillian
    4 years ago

    Yes it seems that the walls, floors and anything else that is near me gets in my way. I understand now that it’s my migraines that cause me to feel a little tipsy. I always make the comment to my family that I’m “slightly drunk “, lol, but in all seriousness I’ve lost my balance and fallen several times. I can only imagine what people who don’t know me or even those who do but don’t know what I as a person who suffers from migraine goes through can only come to their own conclusion as to why I fall a lot or walk slightly like a crab. If they don’t ask or make any remarks they can assume what they want!

  • Clipi
    4 years ago

    I’ve always had balance issues — one spin has always been enough for a birthday party turn at pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. I joke about being great at trip-recovery. However, I definitely list increased clumsiness as an accompaniment to migraines, beginning with the aura phase and lasting until my head is relatively clear. I drop keys (and occasionally glasses) and other small objects and graze doorways & tables as I pass them. This goes along with decreasing field of vision (an issue of awareness rather than if physical vision) and sloggy thinking.

  • Pkaplan
    4 years ago

    I am definitely more accident prone around my migraines. I attribute this to dizziness. My migraines tend to cluster in summer humidity and I usually have minor falls and accidents during the summer which unfortunately limit my ability to exercise which is a huge antidote for me. I just re broke a toe
    last night during a migraine attack. I try to do a lot of balancing and fall prevention exercises, like Pilates.

  • BethBlue
    4 years ago

    My depth perception is ZERO. Oh, I have absolutely no problem mounting a flight of stairs — I’ve climbed lighthouses, hills, even small mountains. Just do not ask me to find my way down! An innocent gaze down an escalator can send me into the spins, and I have never seen stairs that I can’t tumble down on my butt and back. Bruising is fact of life for me, and looks so terrific on fair skin — kind of technicolor, y’know? So yes, I have the “clumsies” too, especially when I am in full attack mode, and the “spins” are with me daily.

  • blueangel1980
    4 years ago

    I have been clumsy longer than I can remember. I have had migraines since around age 16, and I have had psoriasis on my head, eye lids and inside my ears since I was 5. I wonder if one can cause the other?

  • Teri
    4 years ago

    I too have had migraines since age 8. My father would call me a “big, ugly ape” and a “clumsy oaf”. They wouldn’t buy me a bike because they said I couldn’t learn to ride it and they would just be wasting their money. I can’t remember when my mother started telling me to put lotion on my elbows- at some age they started looking blackened. I only learned (in my 40s) that I had psoriasis. When I started having pain all over my body- and I described the pain to the doctor by saying “It feels like a migraine all over my body”- he just told me I had fibromyalgia. Now- in my 60s I discover- with help of a rheumatologist- that I have psoriatic arthritis.

  • Crystalrz4
    4 years ago

    I have a few things going against me. Yes! I have times when I’m more clumsy. However, my migraines are never lower than a “5” on my pain scale. It has been continuous since 01/01/1986 (the day after I gave birth to my fourth child). Since then Hemiplegic Migraine has reared Its Ugly head. I also have had 3 small stokes, with drop-foot on both sides, and Osteoarthritis in most of my joints. But “Yes” I am clumsy besides these things.
    Sticking with Ballet may not have helped. I started at 4yrs and finally quit at 10yrs. I also had gymnastics, rode Dressage/Gymkhana, Hunt Seat and Rough Riding, Swimming and Board Diving for 5 yrs. I never really stopped dancing until I was in my 40’s.
    None of this helped at all when I started getting really clumsy, at least not that I could tell. It comes on before my migraines begin to build, during and as it recedes down to its normal level. I’ve taken some pretty bad falls and some not so bad falls, but the active word here is “FALLS!” I drop things a lot, lose my balance, bounce off walls, etc.
    “GRACE” is no longer my middle name.

  • Tim M
    4 years ago

    Thanks for the article. Now I’m wondering if this applies to me. My migraine attacks are not chronic, and I can keep the frequency down if I avoid known triggers. I’ve noticed that sometimes I get weakness and tremors in my left hand. This has happened for at least the last 25 years, and it never lasts very long, but obviously it’s unsettling. Thinking back, I’m not certain, but I think this might be part of the prodrome phase. I never made the connection before. I’ll have to monitor it to see.

  • Joann
    4 years ago

    I don’t see my response, so: I fall down flat on my face. I don’t try to stop myself. It’s really weird. So, I have hurt my knees and elbows more times than I can count. I cut corners too tight and have bruises on my shoulders and elbows. I bang my hands on tables as I pass by. Just had surgery for a broken bone in the top of my foot from falling back in summer of 2013. I have chronic migraine so I don’t know if the falling/banging/etc comes before or during a migraine since I always have some level of pain. But, clumsy is definitely my middle name.

  • Lodalyn
    4 years ago

    I just thought I had been running I to things and falling down a lot, but after reading this I realize that it could be migraine related.
    I have two thoughts on it. One is great another symptom to look out for and two is at least there is a reason for all of the clumsiness.

  • Kim
    4 years ago

    I refer to this as the “I’m getting on my own nerves” phase. I often don’t make the connection until the migraine headache comes. I often drop the same object 2 more times on the way up from picking it up from the first drop!! UGH “Getting on my own nerves” is what I normally mumble to myself.

  • beautifulhope
    4 years ago

    I’m so glad that I stumbled upon this post. I have been clumsy my entire life. I’m 29 & I’ve had migraines since I was 14. I always attributed it to my genes. My grandmother is very clumsy, as is a cousin or two. Now that I know this is a symptom of migraines, I can add it to my migraine diary to see if it’s connected to the intensity or timing of my migraines!! Thank you so much for sharing your story!! 🙂 Happy living!

  • Nananina
    4 years ago

    Clumsy is my middle name. I drop things, bump into things, have even fallen down flat on my face leaving me with 9 stitches on my nose.
    I have had migraine for the past 25 years. Does the clumsiness get worse with migraine? Yes, it does. I have noticed that during the migraine attack, I tend to be clumsier than ever. I haven’t paid attention yet to the prodromal phase, but after reading this article, I see the connection.

  • Joann
    4 years ago

    When I fall, I fall to my knees and sorta just sprawl outward. So, my elbows, palms and knees bear the brunt. So far I haven’t messed up my face. My husband thinks it’s just a matter of time before I really do some damage.

  • Writermom
    4 years ago

    I have never been known as a particularly graceful girl, but I still try. I am wondering now if my “clumsiness” or “ungracefulness” is from the migraine.

    Be aware, MigraineGirl, that my husband has psoriatic arthritis also, and he occasionally drops things. He also does not consider himself to be graceful. He was a bicycle racer (world-class), but says he cannot learn to dance due to his uncoordinatedness. He uses Enbrel for his psoriatic arthritis, which has helped him tremendously.

  • deborahvan-der-harst
    4 years ago

    I didn’t realize I was clumsy due to migraines until I read this article since I became a chronic migraineur, I have broken a lot of glasses, so I too use plastic bottles so that we have a few glasses for the non-clumsy adults. Someone mentioned not being able to walk a straight line. I can’t do that either which makes me wonder what would happen if I had to take a field sobriety test. Sometimes I don’t feel like I have complete control overmy hands. If I’m holding a full cup of coffee, I can suddenly drop it without knowing why.

    Just like others here, I tend to bump into things with sharp corners. If my shins hit something, I have been known to cry. I also bang my hips and thighs into things hard enough to leave dark ugly bruises on my very fair skin. Sometimes I have so many bruises that I worry that people will think I’ve been abused.

    The clumsiness isn’t constant, but I trip, fall and bump into things more than I like.

  • Writermom
    4 years ago

    Thanks for your post, MahtaMouse. I experience some of the same things you do, with constantly running into things. I can hardly enter a room without bumping into some of the furniture. My husband calls it “moving furniture again”, but I never connected it with my migraine illness. Hmmm….I also have bruises in various places from bumping into things. I thought it was more of a spacial awareness thing, but maybe it’s the migraine. Thank you for sharing.

  • MahtaMouse
    4 years ago

    I’ve always been considered slightly clumsy but never thought anything of it. I trip, cut myself, bump into things and people. Lately though (and by lately, I mean the last couple of years), I’ve noticed I’m bumping into walls a whole lot more. Haven’t noticed it if precedes a migraine, but it most definitely occurs during one.

    To compound matters, about a year ago I discovered that I have this thing inside my eye that’s all but torn away and is affecting my eyesight in that particular eye. My depth perception… a bit iffy while driving for a few years now… has suddenly gotten a boatload worse, while the fuzziness in that eye has also suddenly gotten worse. Lately however I’ve been noticing that during a monster headache or migraine, my eyesight in both eyes is like trying to see through a super thick split pea soup fog; not to mention that I’m bumping into things like crazy… walls, doors, door jambs, etc.

  • bluesjr
    4 years ago

    Again, this blog helps me make sense of this disease. Clumsiness is one of the many symptoms I deal with during migraine days. Dropping things, running into doorways, bumping my head in tight spaces. Reminded me of my “year of pain” after a severe hip injury – I found myself dropping and breaking a lot of dishes.

    Bamavic’s comments below are very interesting, and I experienced much the same. As my migraines worsened so did my driving, especially reaction time and decision making. I’m particularly light sensitive and one day I had a major attack while driving in bright sun – ended up on the side of the road, disoriented, head pounding, couldn’t even remember how to operate the vehicle. Gave up driving for almost a year after that experience. And quit the motorcycle completely, sold it.

    Bamavic says:

    January 14, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    “Clumsy–yes, but much more significant is the fact that I am a much worse driver when I am experiencing migraine–pretty much in all phases. I miss a lot of visual cues, have problems with the split second decision making required of a good driver and flat out make a lot of bad decisions.”

  • Joann
    4 years ago

    Bumping my head!! OMG! Yet another experience. Thank you. I just remembered that, yes, I bump my head. All the freakin’ time. I was on an airplane just last week. I KNEW the bulkhead was just over my head and bumped my head anyway! I bump my head getting in my car. I see the car. But do it anyway. What is up with that???!!

  • Sandy
    4 years ago

    I have always been clumsy. I just thought was not paying attn or doing things too fast. Now that chronic migraine made me unable to work, charting symptoms is a daily sometimes hrly affair. I have muscle weakness and muscle coordination with my legs during attack. Also have vertigo. Has caused me to run into walls doors before I knew what was happening. Recently, tried to write during attack, had difficulty making making my hands grip the pen as if I had been writing all day. Maybe the reason why I have had the droopies alot… I will keep charting for my dr for now.

  • Erin
    5 years ago

    I was kinda clumsy as a teen. But playing basketball and volleyball helped me get less clumsy. Now with the chronic migraines, I have no depth perception, couldn’t walk a straight line to save my soul, and stumble and bump into everything hard enough to bruise. I’m clumsy before, during, and after a migraine. It’s one of the worst side effects for me. And I can no longer play sports, which really bums me out. Glad I’m not the only one with this problem.

  • Cynthi
    5 years ago

    I have had the “dropsies” since getting chronic migraines. I was 33. I also have a disease, called Dercum’s Disease, that I got around the same time. The disease makes me swell up. I can’t hold on to heavy plates or pans. It is best if I just stay out of the kitchen all together.
    I hate when I drop my keys 5 times, because then I have to bend over and pick them up 5 times. If I didn’t have a migraines before, I do by then.
    I never put dropping stuff with migraines, I put it all with my other disease. Now I can blame the migraines too.

  • aellis
    5 years ago

    Clumsy yes – but not so much dropping things as running into things. I tend to have trouble gauging where I am in space. Currently on day 5 of a migraine that started with a week of almost daily auras without head pain. Also PMS-ing which makes it a different animal – as does the kind person vacuuming right outside my office door… Ran out of sick leave and had to return to work… yay…
    Sorry – just venting. There are so few places to discuss migraines, as when I try, I get the blank stare and just end up saying, “oh – i’ll be fine.”

  • Kim
    5 years ago

    I feel ya. I haven’t worked in two years and don’t miss having to call out sick once a week because of migraines. I would come in late or leave early – still getting all my hours in – but it takes a toll on you psychologically. It’s nice to be able to share with people who have been there / done that.

  • Bamavic
    5 years ago

    Clumsy–yes, but much more significant is the fact that I am a much worse driver when I am experiencing migraine–pretty much in all phases. I miss a lot of visual cues, have problems with the split second decision making required of a good driver and flat out make a lot of bad decisions. I am also very geographically challenged, I don’t know if this is related to migraine but I do know it is worse when suffering migraine. Scary, actually. Anyone else experience this?

  • Kim
    5 years ago

    Ugh. Sooooo clumsy. I always seem to misjudge walls and run right into them. Can be rather embarrassing, but I just laugh at myself before anyone else can and let them know that, yes, I know I’m a klutz. I am dizziest before a migraine hits and the Relpax does me no favors in that area. And I’ve given up using glasses for water – I use a sports bottle. I’ve given up anything sugary, as well. Got tired of cleaning the carpet rather than just sopping up the spills! (Lemon water is delicious.) There are so many small changes I’ve made to accommodate that I am sure I don’t remember everything. It’s best to laugh and *carefully* move on.

  • Beth
    5 years ago

    I’ve been a certifiable klutz all my life. That said, I’ve noticed that I’m much worse during the time I’m getting a migraine. I’ve been known to stumble around like I’m on a rocking boat. I’ve walked into walls and missed door handles. Might be because I get a loud ringing in one ear and get vertigo with most migraines.

  • Teri
    4 years ago

    Vestibular migraines are also called “Floating Women’s Syndrome”. People may not realize that you can have a migraine brain without the pain. There are also ocular migraines- and I bet dizziness can stand alone also.

  • PaulaJ
    4 years ago

    Beth, I get loud ringing in one ear accompanied with dizziness too – also pressure in that ear. I tend to run into walls. It was my ENT who suggested it may be caused by migraines. I don’t usually get headaches, just fleeting pain on one side of my head plus other things like sluggish brain and sometimes pain in one eye.

  • shine4him
    5 years ago

    Funny the timing on this one.

    This week I dropped two water squirt bottles and one sample (which I had to re-prep. Grrr!) in the lab I work in, as well as hit my head on my car while trying to get in. *sigh*

    I’m not naturally clumsy! But yes I’ve run into walls before.

  • Teresa M.
    5 years ago

    I am relieved to learn I am not the only one with this experience. It doesn’t occur with every migraine but maybe 50% of the time. When it does happen I drop things or accidentally throw items I am trying to put down. I sometimes reach for a door handle and completely miss. Ordinarily I am very well coordinated and have good balance.

  • Heather Benton
    5 years ago

    I have had MIGRAINES since I was a child, CHRONIC since my early 30’s (I just turned 43 and have been on LTD for over 9 years also have Fibromaygia) And yes I AM CLUMSY and have had THE DROPSIES for many many years. I worked in a very busy fast paced Coffee House for 11 years, and it wasn’t hard to tell when I was getting a migraine. My usual ability to be fast on my feet, quick with my hands and not spill everything I toughed ~ was lost completely. This could last for a couple of days before the migraine would hit. When they become Chronic i just couldn’t do that work. I still am just a clumsy just not in front of many people, and have learned to accept it! One of my sons who has had migraines since he was very young and has Chronic Pain is the same. Although for him being a young boy and now young adult, he has broken many bones and has more stitches that i count. It is great to know we are not alone, but kind of one of those things you wish would just go away,

  • cedartree
    5 years ago

    Sorry and glad to hear that it is not just me. I never was clumsy. Used to race mountain bikes and play all kinds of sports. Great balance. But now, since severe migraine has joined my life, I fall, drop and run into things daily. I noticed that I had migrated to only using stemmed glasses to drink and realised it is because they are less likely to slip from my hand. I also just open my grip without warning.

    I’m seeing a new neurologist next week to schedule an MRI to be sure nothing else is wrong. This article is comforting because I was thinking maybe tumor. Maybe all of the falling and dropping is migraine. But some days, I hate to say, that I wish I had something that the doctors could CUT OUT! Does anyone else wish this sometimes?

  • Kris
    5 years ago

    Oh yeah. I have hemiplegic migraine, so clumsiness doesn’t even come close to describing my experiences. I fall all the time. I’ve broken every glass glass in my home, so now I use plastic glasses despite preferring the taste of everything from glass. I drop things on a daily basis, then fall over when I reach to pick them up. Before I started having these migraines at 42, I was very coordinated and into sports, and no one would have called me clumsy. It has been quite an adjustment. Oh, and I’m clumsy ALL the time now, not just during attacks, but I’m 50% or more clumsy during attacks.

  • johnnyk
    5 years ago

    Though I’m not normally clumsy, I definitely get that way at the onset of a migraine. Typically I’ll drop my keys, fumble when grasping small items, knock a glass over, etc. I also tend to stumble over my words during these clumsy episodes, with a tendency to be a little “punchy”.

  • Cindy Hatok
    5 years ago

    I wish I dropped things, I tend to trip, that’s almost caused falls several times, just yesterday I almost fell into a glass door at work because my foot was sort of dragging and got caught on a rug and whoops. I often feel a sort of dizziness, this is before, during, after and sometimes in between. I’ve been checked out with MRI’s and there isn’t any other issue in my head so the doctor’s just think it’s my migraines. I just hate that it affects my life so much. I am fearful at time about walking, driving, taking stairs, but I have to work, not much else I can do about it but keep plugging away.

  • Alicia
    5 years ago

    Maureen said: “I also sort of lurch around like my equilibrium is off,stumbling a little bit when I bend over to pick up the thing I have dropped, or grazing the wall or island with my hip or arm as I maneuver around. This is not dizziness or vertigo, which are sometime symptoms of the headache phase for me. This is different. This would be more along the lines of the Alice in Wonderland, “I’m too big for my environment” feeling.”

    THIS. My spatial awareness is just *wrong* before and during a migraine. I’ll think I have plenty of clearance from a doorframe or wall/corner and run smack into it and my hips will hit EVERYTHING. I’ll fumble things like caps (and by fumble, I mean they’ll suddenly launch halfway across the room and I’ll almost fall on my face getting it from the distance problem), and there comes a point where I just KNOW not to touch (or even get near) a glass at a restaurant.

  • Jenn Tyborski
    5 years ago

    I’ve been clumsy for as long as I can remember. Being on the taller side for girls, I always attributed my klutziness to my height. However, I noticed I became more clumsy after the onset of my daily chronic headaches (doctor diagnosis)/migraines. I notice I drop more things or spill when I’m during the migraine or postrome period, moreso than predrome. However, since I am daily chronic, the phases began to slide together after a while when it comes to my clumsiness.
    Always glad to know I’m not the only one!

  • Writermom
    4 years ago

    Thank you for posting this, Jean. My daily chronic run together also, so it’s usually difficult to tell which phase I am in. The head pain is constant. I run into things all the time. My father suffered from migraines and he was very clumsy in his later years. I just figured that this was something I inherited from him. But, maybe we both suffer this because of the migraines.

  • Kathy
    5 years ago

    Definitely (unfortunately), sometimes minimal dropping things, walking into things and in extreme with multiple triggers coming into play simultaneous seems to almost mimic stroke symptoms. This is one of my indicators of a nasty migraine and hardest to control. Limiting anytime. If you’re athletic, adventurous, it increases risk, so I work to be really aware of my triggers, do my research in advance to reduce impacts and reduce migraines ability to slow me down more than it already does.

  • Pisastero
    5 years ago

    Just yesterday I was eating breakfast, not sure if a migraine was on its way, and I kept dropping my spoon. I took that as a clear sign and took my abortive. Sure enough, I was right!

  • Maureen
    5 years ago

    I absolutely am clumsy, get the dropsies, etc. during the aura/headache phase of my migraines. In general, I am not a clumsy person;I am coordinated and athletic. But as the migraine comes on, I frequently drop things, especially in the kitchen. I don’t drop big things; I drop paper, my car keys, and usually my abortive. I spill water when I am taking my abortive, and often ask for help opening the packaging. I think that these things usually happen in the kitchen because I have gone there for medicine, water,and an ice pack, so the clumsiness comes on just at the time before I have made it to my bed or the couch.
    I also sort of lurch around like my equilibrium is off,stumbling a little bit when I bend over to pick up the thing I have dropped, or grazing the wall or island with my hip or arm as I maneuver around. This is not dizziness or vertigo, which are sometime symptoms of the headache phase for me. This is different. This would be more along the lines of the Alice in Wonderland, “I’m too big for my environment” feeling.
    Thank you for this gathering place where I can talk like this and not shock anyone. The other day I said something about the light being an icepick in my brain, and my husband was like, “Oh wow! That’s graphic!” Really? That is pretty commonplace. After all this time, as a non-migraneur, he still can’t quite grasp it. Amazing. But, no worries, he is a keeper anyway:)

  • Kiwigirllara
    5 years ago

    I have been a migraine sufferer since I was an early teen, but when they became severe & frequent/daily I noticed that I became considerably more clumsy. I also have psoriatic RA & Fibromyalgia & during a flare up of any kind I can become so instead or clumsy that even the smallest of tasks are almost impossible. I am always more clumsy now that I was I became sick.

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