Family Affair

When I was young I heard my paternal Grandmother talk about suffering from migraines. I didn’t know the significance of this until I was 11 and just starting 6th grade. I was laying on my bed one morning after chores (I’m a farm girl) reading a book. All of the sudden my left arm, hand, leg, and foot went numb. My vision in my left eye had squiggles and my face was tingly. I went downstairs and my mom immediately thought I was having a stroke. By then, the awful pain had started behind my left eye. She took me to the ER where it was determined I was in the midst of a migraine. This started my journey of dealing with migraines.

I was given a little green pill called Caffergot to take when I first noticed the migraine coming on. I missed countless days of school all through Junior High and High School. The school secretaries got to know me well, sending an escort with me to get my things and wait for someone to come and get me. I continued with only the Cafergot to help with the pain until my early twenties. It never really worked for the pain or the nausea that eventually came with the migraine.

I got married at 17 and had three children by 21. My then husband never went out of his way to help with the kids when I was in the throes of pain. I would get a migraine 3-4 times a week. I would put a gate across the living room doorway and lay on the couch while the kids played. My doctor finally had me try Imitrex injections at home, which worked well for years.

When I was 26, I was divorced and living with my parents while starting nursing school. The migraines seemed to let up some, but my parents were more proactive then I had been, getting me to the ER when needed and helping with the kids. I missed classed occasionally, but was learning to avoid foods that set off a migraine. I had always avoided processed food, boxed mixes, cheese, and chocolate since I was first diagnosed. I seemed to be getting a reprieve from the pain through the 3 years I was in school. But, unfortunately at the age of 30 they returned with a vengence.

I remarried and was working night shifts at a hospital. Messing with my sleeping regime, had me down with a migraine 4-5 times a week. I was still using Imitrex at that time, with minimal results. I took a new job working 3AM to 3PM two days a week, but still suffered. I was hospitalized twice, in the ER numerous times for two years.

I finally saw a neurologist during one hospitalization, who put me on an antidepressant and a new abortive med. While hospitalized, I was given IV morphine, which led to rebound after rebound. They also gave me DHE, but it caused severe leg cramps and pain. Over the next couple of years I tried Maxalt, Topamax, and Zomig. I was given steroid bursts and put on amitriptyline. Nothing ever seemed to help long term.

During this time I was diagnosed with Chiari, a neurological disorder. This caused horrendous head pain, fatigue, memory problems, and muscle weakness. I next went to MHNI (Michigan Head Pian and Neurological Institute) in Chelsea,Michigan. I was there for 3 weeks, with the intention of helping to find what worked for my migraines. The head doctor decided that I should get help with my Chiari, since that was more distressing to me than the migraines at that time. I ended up having decompression brain surgery in 2005, which left me with severe side effects. Two more brain surgeries followed, and finally a neurologist came to my clinic that would end up helping me deal with my migraines. We tried Relpax and butterbur. The Relpax helped with the migraines with aura, but not the ones without. It all seemed to be a hit or miss with the meds.

Last January, my Neurologist suggested we try to get approved for Botox. February 18th I had my first series of Botox injections. It was like a veiled was lifted. I still got migraines, but less frequently and the abortives helped every time. About the end of April, the Botox seemed to be wearing off, and as I write this I am waiting for insurance approval for my next injections. We have already pushed back the appointment one week and hopefully will get the go ahead this week. I was hesitant about Botox at first, but the injections themselves were not hard to tolerate, and the results were amazing! The migraines run in our family, my father, brothers, sister, and my daughter all suffer to varying degrees. I still miss out on family gatherings and outings with my husband, but have a wonderful support system with so many in my family who know what I am going through.

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