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Dismissed at Urgent Care

I had one of the worst medical experiences of my life yesterday! We have all been treated like our disease is not real or not given the “respect” as an actual neurological disease; however, yesterday a doctor belittled me to tears.

I have suffered from chronic migraines for nearly 30 years. I have seen many specialists and am currently taking preventative meds, abortive meds, vitamins, hydration measures, you name it. Yesterday, after suffering from a migraine for 3 days, I decided to take action and have a friend take me to Urgent Care. I rarely do this. I hate the judgement and proving my pain to people. I handle the pain on my own. However, yesterday I decided that my medications just were not working and I needed to be able to get back to my life. I filled out my paperwork, paid my co-pay, did an initial intake (triage) with a nurse where I broke down a little in tears from the exhaustion, then they put me in a room and a male doctor and his student came in. The doctor had his mind made up about me before I spoke. He proceeded to ask about my primary doctor and my medications. The student who was a “headache specialist” who I had to explain what Aimovig was to, just looked at me doe-eyed. And the doctor continued to tell me that there is nothing that they could do for me because I already do everything and have medication. I told him that it’s not working; I’m on day three. He said that I can call my primary doctor or go to an ER. I asked if he knew how much it would cost me to go to an ER and his response was, “there’s nothing I can do about that”. I was stunned. I said there are 35 million people in America with migraines and you do not treat them here?! I realize now that he was shaming me. He thought I was drug-seeking. I have a long history of migraines. Zero history of prescription or substance abuse of any kind. I even offered alternative treatment options (that were non-narcotic, as these two yahoos clearly were not informed of migraine treatments) and nothing. Denied. Sent out the door, after taking my money.

I came for help because that’s what you should do when a migraine is persistent and I was sent on my way worse off then when I came in. I was so upset that I did not go anywhere else. I just wanted to go home. And I did. And cried in pain. And now I’m pissed. No medical staff should be treating people this way. I do not deserve migraine pain (no one does) and I did not deserve to be treated like that!

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.


  • deedeevee1
    2 months ago

    Let me clarify here, my doctor sent the information about my treatment if needed for urgent care directly to the hospital system in my area for which he was affiliated. I did not have a note from him that I carried and brought with me.

  • deedeevee1
    2 months ago

    Also, I would demand a refund. You did not have any services rendered. Yelp about it. Call your local AG’s office. Small claims court, if you are feeling saucy. Lol. But you have the right to say you didn’t render services I want a refund. And if insurance was involved contact them immediately!!

  • deedeevee1
    2 months ago

    I’m sooo sorry you were treated so poorly. Sadly tho, I find that to be the norm and not the exception. I haven’t sought urgent or emergency care in over seven years because of treatment like that. Meanwhile I know for certain that my primary care physician has notes in my file to make certain I’m not treated that way. I just refuse. It’s terrible and unfortunate and that’s why it’s so important that we try and advocate for ourselves. Let your personal physician know what occurred come up with a plan for urgent care. Establish a location you can go to, have him/her send information ahead about your specifics. It’ll take the anxiety out of having to go to urgent care and insure proper care once you arrive.

  • tlocker
    2 months ago

    I had almost exactly that experience in an ER ($$$). Like you, I have to be REALLY REALLY sick for multiple days because I’ve had such bad experiences in my 30 years. My DH finally convinced me to go in on Day 4 when I was quietly crying from the incessant pain.
    After the noise, TV’s blaring, bright lights, awful smells of the waiting room; a very nice nurse took me to a waiting room, gave me a cold towel, and turned off the lights. It took another hour for the doc to come in flip on the lights, decide I was ‘drug seeking”. Well ,YES, I would like release from this pain, and this IS a hospital where one gets such drugs to relieve pain.
    So, despite my having a letter of directions for ER docs FROM MY Neurologist. He flipped it onto the desk without a glance, and said, “we don’t give narcotics for headaches here” (narcotics were #5 of 6 in the list he ignored).
    My DH got upset with him, but who can fight a M-Diety? Then the nurse comes in with a pill (yes, I’ve just got done saying I’ve kept nothing down for 3 days). When I asked her what it was, she said chipperly, “Valium”. HUH? Valium pill that will thow up, won’t work, is NO WHERE on my treatment plan? Much to her chagrin I refused it, got my IV for fluid removed and swore in tears I’d never return to this hospital. And I haven’t, and it’s the only hospital where I live.
    I tried to find the “where to post a complaint (every hospital is to have one) it is in the small print on the back of the bill. Never heard back from them.
    I hope the Aimovig keeps reducing yours, it’s working fairly well for me…finally a med that actually works! Though I’ve had to fight Caremark/CVS who took it off their formulary, though the other two CGRP’s ARE now covered, but one made me sick for an entire month. Plus, no one at Caremark Insurance I talked to there knew why it was droppe!, they’re all about the same price. The “Ally” program drops off if your insurance denies it too, so…the battles continue, sigh. . .

  • Holly Baddour moderator
    2 months ago

    Hi @balboughe– I’m so sorry you had this experience and as you can see from the comments below, it is an all too common one for migraineurs.

    I wanted to share with you a couple of resources relevant to this topic.

    First, an article about the fact that the Emergency Room is the last place for migraine – including some strategies to avoid it:

    Secondly, a recent piece about an alternative treatment that it sounds like you may have some experience with- hydration therapy. It’s possible to find this type of treatment outside of an ER (through your migraine specialist office, a medical day spa, even some PCP offices offer this service). However, you have to time your migraine attack to hit within office hours for it to work out, but- if it’s one of those situations where you are going in for care because you are reaching your breaking point after days of trying your own medications to no avail and it’s possible to wait a few more hours, this treatment approach may indeed be preferable to an ER visit:

    I can’t agree more with some of the commenters below who express the importance of working proactively with your migraine specialist to ensure that you have various types of rescue medications at home as part of your personal arsenal to keep you from having to go to the ER. A good migraine specialist will work with you to create an emergency plan to keep you from having to be admitted to a hospital. If you aren’t getting the kind of comprehensive care you deserve and need from your migraine doctor, it might be time to search for a new one.

    You are not alone in this and we are with you. Please stay in touch and thank you for sharing your story.

  • Bskuhl
    2 months ago

    No migraine sufferers will be treated at a doc-in-a-box. You have to go to an ER. Most people who work in an ER now have been told narcotics should not be used to treat migraine. So good luck with that. You could get lucky and the doctor will take pitty on you. That was before Trump started a war on legitimate narcotic use. The FDA, CDC DEA have put up an all out front to ALL usage of opiods. These agencies are putting”guidelines” in place so doctors are afraid to cross them. DEA agents are harassing doctors and pharmacy’s so they are afraid to prescribe and fill narcotics. I know hospice patients who are crying in pain and being denied adequate pain management. It’s disgusting. Yes, the government needs to butt-out of OUR life, but that is the current reality.
    It’s best to work with your PCP and anticipate the inevitable time when your current meds will not work. You must demand either meds for emergency use or the PCP’s personal cell phone number to call after hours. Well, that pretty much sums it up. We’re all screwed. I just think that it wasn’t that long ago that you could just go to the soda shop on the corner and have the pharmacist fix you up with some dilaudid. No government bureaucrats, no doctor belittlement, no expensive ER. Just over the counter. Have we big brothered our self to death yet?

  • Ian Ginsburg
    2 months ago

    Dear Erin B,
    I am so sorry you were disrespected- reading everyone’s comments there is a common thread. Our ER care is totally inadequate. Yes the awful fluorescent lights the incessant waiting which in my case usually was accompanied by vomiting into a garbage bag. And then if I was lucky I would get IV benedryl, at too low a dose to really do the trick because they didn’t listen to me as to the correct dose, one of the steroids and some toradol – I had a letter from my neuro as to what course of action and medications they should use and they totally ignored it. And I was given no pain medicine I do not take opioids but they used to give me a push of a milligram of dilaudid and this would really help break the pain. No more.
    So, like many of you I decided why should I subject myself to this abuse. And did it matter that I told them I had dangerous migranous seizures when mine are most severe – nope – didn’t matter to them and I told them an IV Bag of magnesium could prevent the seizures. So like almost all of you – I just don’t go. And that for me and like many of you is dangerous. What on earth is wrong with this picture. This is a crisis in ER migraine care. And you bet I let the hospital know. And they were dismissive and actually tried to explain to me how I had “good quality care.” And this is a “good” hospital. Well I think the migraine community needs to do an uprising and intervention to change the conversation and end our collective suffering.

  • BrownT
    2 months ago

    Erin, no one deserves to got looking for medical assistance and be treated that way. It is shameful how the critical care system has degraded to treating patients who are in pain in the off chance they might be misleading. I really wonder how often that actually happens.
    I try everything to stay away from critical care. I also rarely go. When I can no longer manage my pain with my rescue meds and my pain is overwhelming I have gone to the emergency. I think the last 4 times I have not received treatment for my migraine. One time the doctor tried antihistamines. Not sure what he was treating. Another time they basically ran the clock out with no treatment. Sometimes I get a shot of Torrodol which is somewhat helpful usually with anti-nausea which is helpful.
    The last time I went the doctor had a student and acted like an idiot. I had a migraine at the back of my head that swells up making it painful to move my head or even manage the jarring of moving my body. My neck and shoulders tense up. After telling the doctor this he grabs me by the shoulders and squeezes, I guess to squeeze the muscles into relaxing. I was very glad I do not react without thinking as I would have hit him it was so tender. I asked him to stop a number of times and he just continued. He did nothing for my pain.
    I talked with my doctor who gave me some Cambria to try which helps as a last resort. It acts like prednisone without the side effects.
    I have reached the conclusion that the doctors have become afraid to provide opioids. Gone are the days when I could go critical care and the doctor would inject morphine until I stopped fidgeting around and calmed.
    Both my mother and father passed from aneurism. I am afraid that I may have one and not go to the hospital because I think it is a bad migraine (like my mother) because I have lost faith that they would treat me.
    Erin, I hope you can find a solution to the bad migraines.

  • JanetH
    2 months ago

    Sharing a story: my hubby has cluster headaches (I know, not migraines), and has had a bad spring. I asked him a few weeks ago during a particularly bad headache if he wanted me to take him to ER. He said no, because they would make him wait at least an hour to ensure that he’s not seeking drugs. And that all they would give him would be oxygen (which he already has) and demerol. He said he’d been to ER a handful of times when he was first diagnosed years ago, and that’s all they would ever do.

  • bluesguy
    2 months ago

    That is completely unacceptable. Thanks to the new war on Opioids, we now have to deal with these under trained health care providers. Have you looked into THC? I have heard some good things about them. The behavior you describe is so demeaning. A letter to the medical board can start a documentation trail that could catch up to those idiots some day.

  • H
    2 months ago

    I am so sorry this happened to you. One suggestion I have seen other people give for situations such as this is to ask your headache specialist or the doctor who treats you for headaches to provide you with a letter that you can give to the ER or urgent care of what treatment he or she would like you to be treated with. He or she can also note this in an electronic medical record and if you are able to go to an urgent care or ER associated with the doctor, they would have access to it. Hopefully, this is something that might help in the future. Good luck!

  • DinaMay
    2 months ago

    You are right. You did not deserve to be treated like that. I’ve had similar experiences as I’m sure most chronic migraineurs have. After my latest adventure in ER, I was filling in my neurologist about the symptoms, including the fact that I’d had that particular migraine for 4 days. He proposed a fantastic solution. He wrote me a prescription for the mega-abortive meds that HE would administer in such a situation. I have the bottle of that stuff in my medicine chest now. There’s only enough for one dose, so I can’t get myself in trouble with it. Each time I have to use that stuff, I have to get his office to issue a new prescription to be ready for the next time. I suggest you discuss setting up something like this with your own doctor and circumvent both ER and urgent care in the future. Good luck!

  • Erin B author
    2 months ago

    Thank you everyone for your responses. It helps to not feel so alone. After 5 days, I had one good day, then another migraine attack the next. These things are beasts indeed.
    I live in a fairly rural area so my treatment options are limited. I have tried just about every medication known to treat migraines with no success. And due to the opioid crisis no doctor around here will prescribe pain meds.
    I do appreciate all of the support tremendously! There is comfort in knowing that we are not alone.

  • glassmind
    2 months ago

    So sorry to hear you had this experience.

    Even if the center was limited in thier care options, the doctor could have had a much better demeanor.

    With one exception, every time I’ve seen a doctor with a student present, the doctor acted extra “I know everything.” This happens for any ailment I’ve had.

    There is a serious problem in healthcare with providers hiding lack of knowledge or mistakes behind I superioriority complex. It costs people thier lives.

    Again, my sympathy for you.

    Thank you for sharing your story, so that there is greater awareness of the need for providers to be compassionate and courteous at all times, as well as for more treatment options outside of the emergency room.

    I encourage you to talk to your primary doctor about rescue medications in order to avoid this in the future. My initial doctor was dismissive of my migraine (despite claiming to have migraines herself). I was at the e.r. repeatedly. Luckily, that doctor quit, and my new provider at my first appointment with her was willing and able to provide me with prescriptions for rescue medications.

    I hope you have been able to get relief for the persistant migraine.

    Thank you again.

  • emi346
    2 months ago

    @Erin B I’m so sorry. Being dismissed and disbelieved is one of the worst feelings, especially from the people who are supposed to help us. I had a very similar experience and it left me feeling very alone and hopeless. Please know that we’re here for you if you’d like to talk to someone who’s been in a similar position. I’m so sorry this happened to you, sending internet hugs.

  • GardensatNight
    2 months ago

    I’m really sorry that happened to you. And, a “headache specialist” who had never heard of Aimovig?? (hahaha)

    I don’t even try to go to Urgent Care for migraine treatment. Unfortunately, I’ve found there just isn’t anything useful they can do. The ones near me won’t set up IVs and don’t have the drugs on hand to give through infusion to help abort an intractable attack–they just send you to the ER.

    The ER is also a scary prospect because sometimes you get great doctors and sometimes… also every doctor seems to want to reinvent the wheel with how they’re going to treat intractable migraine attacks, and even if you tell them, “no please, not that drug,” or “can you just give me this?” you’re unlikely to be listened to. And then it’s also super $$$$

    If you have an infusion center where you live, they can often administer drugs to break up intractable attacks and depending on your insurance and the type of infusion center, it may be much cheaper than the ER. Your neurologist can send over the prescription for what you need in the event of an intractable migraine attack.

  • headouchies
    2 months ago

    Wow! This is absolutely the kind of thing I have experienced. I’ve gone to ERs over the years for various, even for what doctors consider “legitimate”, pain (i.e. not migraine). These doctors do always try to reinvent the wheel, and try to figure out what to give you themselves. I was once almost coerced by an ER doctor to take an NSAID for my terrible gallbladder pain even though NSAIDs are listed as an allergy on my chart. I have a kidney transplant and the transplant team themselves, at that very facility, told me to list it as an allergy as it could damage my kidney. I’m also always careful when I go into these places for pain because if you tell them what pain med works for you (usually an opiate for me), you WILL be labeled as drug-seeking.

    I’ve had to go through hours to get pain control waiting for them to run through the list of meds they want to give me instead of just giving me the damned med I need. What a crazy game! They finally, eventually offer me Dilaudid (which makes me sick), and I allow myself to ask for morphine. They give me that suspicious, “drug-seeking” look, but finally just give me the drug that I ask for because they’re sick of dealing with me.

    I have never, EVER been given adequate pain control at an ER for migraine. I have terrible, chronic migraines and have decided it’s just not worth the extra pain, the flickering fluorescent lights, the stupid or mean doctors, the hours of waiting, and, frankly, the humiliation.

    We all deserve better than this.

  • Khalid Moomand moderator
    2 months ago

    @Erin B, I am so sorry that you had to experience that! It is extremely disheartening when we find ourselves trying to convince other non-migraineurs what we feel between our ears but even more frustrating when we have to explain it to a trained physician that specializes in headaches. I am sending you some positive thoughts and hope that your abortive meds are kicking in by now. The recent soggy weather has not been helpful to many of us, lately! Keep us updated 🙂

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