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Friday, November 05, 2010

What the heck happened?

Friday, November 05, 2010 By

The migraine was not a big deal. Usually when I get a migraine at night, I can just pop a decongestant and go to sleep. When I wake up, almost all better. But this one was different. I woke to a thousand dwarfs pounding bricks into my skull. Bricks made of suns that clanged like a train bell whenever they hit me. Crap.

So I fumbled - eyes covered - to the closet and pulled out the Imitrex. I wanted to French kiss it. But instead I took it with water and laid back down. Scott understood and kept Emmie quiet.

Four hours later, no change. I popped another Imitrex. Four hours later - and an entire Sunday almost depleted - no change. So I pulled out the big guns: The $300 Max-alt I keep on hand just in case. It tastes like ear wax. But it works quickly. Usually...

But not today. The afternoon was waning. There was only so much time before the clinic closed. After 90 minutes, no change.

"Let's go," I told Scott. "I need some help with this." And he went into partial freak-out mode, driving like a maniac and repeatedly asking me if I was okay.

"Jus' don' panic, Daddy," Emmie called from the back seat, and I giggled weakly, despite the explosions it set off in my skull.

The doctor gave me a very painful shot in my butt. In 15 minutes, I felt better. In 25, I was ready to go. In 40, I was back to myself. It lasted three hours, just enough time for me to get everyone ready for the new week. Then, a fever hit me. I mean it hit me hard. Took me down like a ninja whoopin' up on an old lady. By 3:30 a.m., I knew I wasn't going to work. By 5:30 a.m., I was out of my mind.

Scott tells me that I repeatedly complained about an alarm clock ringing. There was no alarm clock. I also started kicking my legs and saying, "Feet gotta run!" Anyone who knows me knows that running is something I do only when someone is chasing me with a knife. So, obviously, something was wrong.

Scott took Emmie to school and me to the hospital, where they admitted me immediately and started testing. They gave me a shot. Very little changed. They did a CT scan, and thought they saw evidence of swelling in my brain. The doctor came back with terms like sinus thrombosis and cerebri pseudotumor. Geez. Go right for the fun stuff.

I tried to convince them that I'm just so smart that I need more room in my cranium. They did not believe me. I can't imagine why...

They did an MRI. It was freaky, like being inside HAL. I had a moment of panic, from experiencing claustrophobia for the first time. But a tech patted me on the leg and told me I had just 5 more minutes to go. That got me through it.

They took me to a room, gave me something for the pain, and let me sleep. I did that a lot for a couple of days. Then they wanted to give me a spinal tap. That was not an experience I'd like to relive - especially because they had to stop and take me down to radiology to complete it. And yet, just a couple of days later, I had to repeat the experience, because I needed a blood patch to get rid of the spinal headache.

They kept me in the hospital from Monday to Saturday. There were cultures to grow - meningitis was another possibility - and I was in so much pain that I couldn't sit up. The pain was less manageable because I won't take opiates, except in extreme situations.

At the end of the week, they had no concrete answers. So they chalked it up to a migraine and sent me home with a prescription for an anti-seizure medication often used off-label to prevent migraines. It made me so stupid that I couldn't remember people's names or keep up in meetings. They call that side-effect "psychomotor slowing." It felt like I had to think my way through Jello. So I took myself off of it, because doctors just love it when patients medicate themselves, am I right, medical community?

I'm mostly back to normal - but I'm having problems with short term memory loss and concentration, a constant headache, and neck and jaw pain. In the meantime, I'm seeing an otolarygologist for treatment of my ongoing ear/sinus issues. The neurologist says that has nothing to do with migraines. But the ENT specialist says he sees it all the time. It can't be worse than doing nothing, so this is the way I'm going right now.

In the meantime, I'm getting all sorts of helpful advice from people. Like the co-worker who told me a story about a patient with fungal meningitis.

"I know they tested you for viral and bacterial meningitis, but did they test you for that?"

"Heck, I've never even heard of it - I don't know!"

Or another fear factor:

"I had a friend who had an ear or sinus infection that got so bad that it spread to her brain. Are you worried about that?"

Well, now I am. Thanks.


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