Serious as a Heart Attack
I've been a lifetime migraine sufferer. My earliest childhood memories revolve around migraines and not being "Normal." The last few years have been fraught with the worst migraines of my lifetime, and also some of the most intriguing diagnoses ever.
In 2009, I had a job offer with a company in Colorado, born a western New Yorker from a low income area, I jumped at the opportunity to move west and start a new life. What transpired after the move was scary, interesting, and quite profound.
I arrived at the rental in late Oct, in the mountains outside of Denver by about 45 minutes, learned quickly the altitude will play hell with your body. Going from 300 feet above sea level, too 8900 feet above sea level, is quite a jump for even the most healthy of people. Shortly after starting my new job, I began suffering the most intense migraines of my life. I sought out a local primary care doctor that had excellent reviews. He saw me right away and of course like other doctors he diagnosed me with migraines, however he was extremely pro-active in helping me find a treatment. He put me on an aspirin regiment, and prescribed Imitrex for the migraines. On the aspirin regiment as with most other rescue medicines it worked for a short time.
One night, mid January 2010, I had a migraine start to come on, so I took one of the Imitrex, the first one ever. Within fifteen minutes I started to feel short of breath, my left hand went numb, then my left arm, shoulder, neck, jaw, at which point I started the most horrendous vomiting ever... I knew I was going into cardiac arrest. Once I was able to stand, I got to the bathroom and chewed two adult aspirin, and got myself to the ER. I was diagnose with a major cardiac episode due to the vaso-constricting drug Imitrex.
The ER doctors were confounded as they reviewed the 2 ct scans they had done of my heart. (the first one didn't show any damage, and didn't show why I had the episode so they ordered a second, with the same results). Once I was released, my doctor referred me to a Cardiologist to run some standard tests. I went through the torture that is stress tests and further ct scans. At which point the Cardiologist asked if I had ever been diagnosed with a PFO (patent formen ovale) or a hole in my heart. I never heard of such a thing. He then ordered a Echo-with bubble study to be done. Upon reviewing the results, I was diagnosed with a rather large PFO...
The cardiologist was actually quite happy that they found this, he stated that currently there is a double blind medical study that is being done to determine the link between having a PFO and suffering from migraines. They have already proven that patients with PFO are more likely to suffer from certain types of stroke, and cardiac failure than someone without. They still aren't quite certain as to the mechanism or link between the PFO and migraines, however the theory is sound.
When a person has a PFO between the upper two chambers of their heart, the O2 rich blood gets pumped back to the lungs, increasing the person's blood pressure. When the blood pressure goes up, the heart pumps even harder, and less and less oxygen gets pumped through out the body. Because of the lack of oxygen in the person's body, it cause vascular inflammation, particularly in the brain, causing the onset of the migraine.
Since my diagnosis, I lost my job in Colorado, and have been struggling ever since, and was forced to move back to NY . I am still suffering migraines, and currently have no insurance, and am going through trials with medication in order to qualify me for the medical study.
Because of my situation, prior to leaving Colorado, and explaining that I was in dyer straights and needed to have the PFO closure done, my Cardiologist ordered a TEE (trans-esophageal echo) to verify the PFO or rule it out and put in it's place a diagnosis of having an ASD (atrial septal defect) due to the amount of cross flow of blood from one side of my heart to the other.
The reason he wanted that done, is that health insurance covers the closure of an ASD. It does not cover the cost of closure for a PFO (which is why they are doing the double blind study)
Currently I am in limbo trying to figure out my next move, and find another job with health insurance so I can get the testing done that I need, and to get the medicines they are prescribing.
Getting some stuff off my chest:
With out insurance I can't even get seen by a cardiologist, let alone get the expensive testing completed. I am on the verge of bankruptcy, and quickly losing my sanity. I have a wonderful partner that has endured my suffering and has been there for me through thick and thin, and I am extremely grateful for that. Why he stays with me, when the quality of life we have is greatly diminished due to the migraines is beyond me, when he could have a normal relationship with a person who can maintain a job and doesn't suffer migraines, and doesn't have to schedule their life around their medical condition. I am blessed to have such wonderful man in my life.
I go through a bit of this depression as I am sure most of you that suffer do. I just hope that you can look at what I've posted here and take stock in the little blessings in your life, as well as the big ones. I find keeping myself informed and learning as much as I can helps me to be more proactive when talking with doctors, it will help you as well.
Many wishes for a migraine free life to you all!!!
When it comes to planning vacations or other events where travel is required, how much does migraine factor into your decision-making?