60 Years with Migraines

I was hit by a car in the early '60s (at about 10 years old, my fault, entirely), and experienced huge bruises and a head injury that was called at the time, a "slight concussion". CAT scans and EEGs were not available, at least not then and there, and the only basis for that diagnosis was a crude x-ray and cursory physical assessment.

Migraine symptoms after a car accident

I was terrified, though, because I seemed to have lost my ability to speak in more than single words, and even that was a struggle. I remember not even being able to say, "I can't talk". I had no idea if this was permanent, although my parents and the family doctor repeatedly told me it would go away soon.

After several days, my speech began to return. I still had headaches, but the bruises on both of my hips - one from the impact of the car bumper, and the other from hitting the pavement after flying several feet in the air - were so painful they held my attention.

Vision problems turned to debilitating head pain

The head injury faded into the background over the next couple of years, but in 5th grade, I started having severe and debilitating headaches that included blinding visual effects and numbness and tingling in my hands and feet, punctuated with nausea and vomiting. The strain of vomiting made it feel like my head would burst open. The first several of these attacks were almost as frightening as the initial aftereffects of the concussion, but I eventually was able to accept that though they were excruciating and blew up my whole day, they were not fatal. Doctors I saw during that time told me it was a turbo-headache, called a migraine.

Managing migraine in the army

When I went for my army physical after being drafted into the Vietnam War (1971), I tried to explain to the doctor that I had severe headaches at random intervals that blinded me and made me vomit. He said, "Oh, that doesn't sound too bad". I said I really didn't want to find out what happened if I had one during a combat situation. Fortunately for me and my future fellow soldiers, the war wound down before that could put that to the test, and my induction order was canceled weeks before I was to get on the bus for Fort Knox.

Finding relief for my head pain

Somewhere along the way, after one prescription that made me feel worse, Cafergot, I found that Ginkgo Biloba and a baby aspirin a day reduced both the frequency and severity of the headaches. Eventually, I tried doing without the aspirin, with no change. Whenever I ran out of Ginkgo, though, they came back. I also take extra Ginkgo and drink strong coffee when the visual effects come on, which seems to get them over with faster, without much actual headache.

My vision problems returned

These days, at age 74, the visual onset is usually the worst part of the episode, and fortunately, the actual headache is slight or absent. It leaves me with a kind of hangover that feels like recovering from a mild flu. It usually lasts a few hours and goes away. After what seemed like a lightning strike to the head for the first time in 30 years or so, these are pretty trivial. I don't know whether the Ginkgo has anything to do with that, but I'll take it forever, just in case.

Noticing weather patterns

I have noticed that these days, the attenuated episodes seem to occur more often when the weather is changing. I bought a barometer, and began to notice that much of a change in pressure, up or down, seemed to associate with them. I don't know if it's always been that way, because I hadn't given much attention to weather patterns before the '90s, when I took a National Weather Service storm spotter class that included some basic meteorology.

Between my head and my osteoarthritis, which seems to hurt more during cool, wet weather, I am a vague but sensitive weather forecaster. I could do without that, but lots of people my age are bedridden or dead, so I'll deal with it.

That's my story. Good luck to my fellow migrainuers, many of whom are putting up with a lot more than I am. Fight on!

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