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You Would Expect a Hospital to Get It

I few months ago I had to plan a minor surgical procedure. The idea of general anesthesia made me a little nervous. For the rest, I knew it was going to be a simple operation and I was pretty relaxed about it.

The night before the surgery I manage to fall asleep easily and I wake up calm and refreshed. My stomach feels a little empty but all the rest is fine.

The Dreaded Air Freshener

My partner is coming with me to the hospital. We don’t have a car here so we call an Uber.

Unfortunately, the car has one of these tree air “fresheners” that smell like mango and artificial sweet stuff. I find it terrible and as soon as we hop in I start feeling a little tension around the neck.

But soon enough we arrive. A smiling nurse is greeting us. She points at my bed and I sit down. I am still a bit nauseous from the smelly car ride, but I try to read my book and relax.

We wait. Half an hour goes by, then one hour, then two. They tell us that there is an emergency so every other surgery is delayed. The department also seems quite understaffed.

At this point I am trying to ignore the muscle tension in the neck that started a few hours before in the car. The pain started creeping up from the neck and now it’s spreading to the rest of the head. I know it is turning into a (don’t say it! don’t jinx it!) — migraine. After all, I have already encountered a few of my most common triggers: skipping meals and dehydration because of the fasting, odd smells and anxiety.

Also, the air conditioning is on (it’s September) and it’s freezing cold.

And there it is. Migraine arrives.

The telephone of the nurses has a loud annoying ringtone and it won’t stop ringing. The room is bright in a way that makes my eyes hurt but there are no curtains.

Questions I Should Have Considered

At this point I start wondering. Will general anesthesia calm down the migraine, or will I wake up even more in pain and maybe vomiting? Is it even safe to go under general anesthesia while having a migraine attack? Can I take medication? Does anyone know?? All of a sudden I have many questions. I ask the smiling nurse. She replies that I shouldn’t look at the screen of my phone if I have a headache. Cutting-edge advice. Also, she gives me paracetamol… In my personal experience with migraine, paracetamol has the efficacy of a glass of water. Still, I want to believe in a miracle. I want to believe that this time, a nurse is giving me a special paracetamol pill and it is going to work.

But yeah. The paracetamol of course doesn’t work and the throbbing pain increases.

However, a different miracle seems to be happening. Following our request, the nurse offers us a spot in a single room. Thank you, we take it! The new room is an improvement for sure. I am by myself and we don’t hear the loud telephone so much. And finally I can pull the curtains for some shade…but wait. Again no curtains! Hospital rooms with no shading system. Such a basic feature. The air conditioning is still crazy strong (we ask again whether it can be lowered) and I toss and turn in bed. I cover my face with the blanket, trying to find relief to my throbbing pain. Now I am also nauseous.

After a while, I start feeling desperate and sad. I come out of the blanket and I look at my partner.

– Can we go home? –

Maybe I was a Bit Naive

In the last half hour I have weighed my options and the potential implications of leaving. Rescheduling, being put again on a waiting list for the operation, my general health conditions worsening, and the possibility of having to go through this unpleasant adventure all over again. I take the risk, I want relief.

My boyfriend doesn’t have migraines but he has come to know my condition quite well. He supports my choice.

We collect our stuff, we communicate our decision and we leave.

What struck me was that of all places, I would have expected a hospital to be prepared.

[I managed to reschedule my appointment after a couple of months. I realized afterwards that probably I had been a bit naive not asking migraine-related questions to specialists prior to my first appointment. But this was still the beginning of my migraine journey. Anyway, this second time I was luckier. I was in the operating room in no time and everything went fine.]

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


  • LizW
    3 months ago

    I’m getting to this point. I’ve walked the ledge for 2 years now. I’m about to take a four-week leave. I don’t know if it will help. I just know I am deteriorating. I may have to face the fact that I can’t work any more at one of the best companies in this “Small, Small World”. I should be killing it. Instead I’m barely functioning some days. ;(

  • Peggy Artman moderator
    3 months ago

    @LizW, there is no shame in taking some time off work to focus on your health. Migraine can be a very debilitating disease. You are not alone in this. Keep us posted!
    ~ Peggy ( team)

  • Soteria
    7 months ago

    I can so sympathize with you. Having had to deal with uninformed (or just plain crabby or disinterested) hospital staff when you’re in the middle of a migraine attack can be so frustrating, and at times, completely demoralizing. I have had ER doctors assure me that migraines are caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels (wrong!), ER nurses who are sure I’m there to try and get opioids (I don’t take them – they don’t work) or tell me they’re sure I “just have a virus” because I’ve been vomiting for 2 days. You really do have to be your own advocate when in a hospital as most staff have little understanding or experience dealing with severe migraines. If you find one that does, it’s almost a miracle. I will never forget the ER doctor who came to my bed, patted me on the shoulder and said “I’m a migraineur too and I’m gonna take care of you”. I literally cried – it was so unusual.
    Carrying a card is a great idea, particularly when you’re in so much pain that you can’t communicate.

  • LizW
    7 months ago

    OMG. after giving birth (emergency c-section), I told the post labor nurse I had a migraine. She comes back with a tylenol3. i say “no thank you, that won’t work, i need imitrex, or something stronger than tylenol3” . she says, “that means i have to call the dr” . I say, “then please do”
    before she leaves the room, she says, “why do you think you have a headache?” at this point, i’ve had it, and say, “it’s not a headache. it’s called a post-epidural migraine. it’s quite common. it’s noted in the book ‘what to expect when your’e expecting’. perhaps you should read it”. never saw her again and had to get my husband to bring my rescue drugs from home. ARGH!

  • manahime1969
    8 months ago

    I usually just say the I have a very bad migraine and I’m extremely nauseous and I fell very close to vomiting. Even tho it may not be a 100% true. It tends to work for me because they really don’t want the chance of you vomiting while under anesthesia. I’ve also started to take a facemask (the washable kind) with me everywhere I go. It’s not perfect but the little bit of help that it gives me is worth the investment. I also have started to take sunglasses (the kind that goes over my glasses) with me every time I leave my place to go somewhere. They also help quite a bit.

  • bluesguy
    8 months ago

    What a nightmare! I am sorry that you had to endure this totally non empathic person, and environment. I would think they would have been able to give you something to help your pain. I have been in a similar situation (having an eye surgery), how ever I was lucky. I came out of the anesthesia with a terrible migraine. However, I was lucky, they game me a shot of pain medicine, as I had a 45 minute drive home after the surgery. I hope you have a better experience next time.

  • pigen51
    9 months ago

    I have a surgical procedure scheduled for June 21. I have kidney stones in both kidneys, and they are going to break them up on each side. I have never had them done on both sides before. I have had them done on one side at a time, at least 10-12 times. But I have near daily migraines, and so I am not looking forward to dealing with the whole thing, but I would rather get them dealt with than have to pass them. One is 6mm, as big as I have ever passed, and it is not pleasant.
    They are often shaped like a potato, oblong, and so I wait until it hits in just the right position before it will come out, and until then, I am hurting.
    People don’t understand sometimes, that while we have migraines, we are not insulated from the other problems of life. My wife went through breast cancer, a couple years ago, which took a year to deal with. Fortunately, she got through it in perfect health, and I was able to be there for her as I am not working but on disability. But life doesn’t stop because we have migraines. So best wishes to everyone, and remember that here, we understand, and you can share your issues with us, and be safe knowing that we probably have similar issues.

  • glassmind
    9 months ago

    The nature of the myriad of condituons humans present, makes it difficult for every condition to be fully understood.

    It is so difficult mid-migraine to also conduct self-advocacy.

    The number of times I’ve had to ask medical personnel to lower thier voices is mind boggling. Who with any ailment benefits from a loud voice?

    So sorry you had to go through this.

    But so glad you got a private room, were able to reschedule and had a loved one to advocate.

    For myself, you, and all with migraine, I recommend a pocket/wallet card that briefly explaines migraine and needs. A Migraine Action Plan with greater detail that you and your primary health provider creat is extra helpful.

    I have these for multiple conditions and whipping out those cards is so much easier and lends a gravitas that for some effin (pardon my language) reason my own words sometimes fail to lend to the situation.

    It’s ridiculous but a little card and a letter from your doc can quickly and easily get you the specific care you need.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. May you have only positive ones in the future!

  • Saire author
    8 months ago

    Hi glassmind, the wallet card is actually a really good idea! I had never thought of it. Thanks for sharing the tips.

  • glassmind
    8 months ago

    You can find cards online for purchase or just as inspiration to make personalized ones.

    I’ve considered medical alert bracelet, too. But like the cards as they have a nice bit of info.

    Best to you

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi Saire,

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I understand this problem, having been in a similar situation about a year ago. I choose to stay and have my procedure, and it turned out OK.

    But that isn’t the case for everyone. We can’t take for granted that a medical facility is prepared for our disease – and that’s a shame.

    Wishing you a low pain day,

  • Saire author
    8 months ago

    Hi Nancy, thanks for the message. Indeed I have learned not to take this kind of things for granted. The hard way, but that’s okay. A low pain day to you.

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