News & Updates

The Scourge of Migraines

Migraine is a relatively common affliction, one that affects more than 10% of people worldwide according to WHO, although studies in Europe show that it affects 6–15% of adult men and from 14–35% of adult women over the course of a year. Diagnosis is patchy for many as well, so it is difficult to say just how widespread it really is. What I do know for sure is that I suffer from them, so when I read Kirstie’s post over on the Beaut.ie blog this morning I thought I would share my own experiences with dealing with these monsters.

I’ve had migraines since I was about 11, although they were generally regarded as just bad headaches for many years. They began with puberty and untreated they would last up to 4 days at a time. My mother also suffered and in time my youngest sister would start to suffer with them as well. For me, they start with a smaller tension style headache and turn into a full blown migraine – with unilateral pain accompanied by intense tension in my neck and shoulder and often my stomach would stop. A strange sensation that, your stomach is normally moving about constantly as it digests and stops acid from pooling so when it stops it feels rather uncomfortable!

After diagnosis I would take caffergot – an ergotomine and caffeine mix. Ergotomine is a mould that grows on wheat and is a hallucinogen, thought to be responsible for the visions that ended in the Slalom Witch Trials! No hallucinations for me though, just stopping the migraine which was fabulous. Interestingly I did find out over the years that the version without caffeine was useless and even taking the non-caffeine pills with a cup of coffee didn’t work, shows how important those extras in pills can sometimes be.

When I was about 20 I finally was sent to a neurologist who worked through various triggers with me, and with his help I was able to better understand my migraines and start working towards minimising their occurrence – really the best that can be hoped for. Some we were able to get rid of, such as some foods – MSG is a particular culprit although I can have a little every now and then. We also identified lavender as a particularly bad trigger for me, so I do avoid that. Unfortunately some of my triggers are harder to get rid of – weather patterns and sudden weather changes which I would only really stop by moving (see, I really did move to Ireland for the weather!) and hormones. No getting rid of those! We found that I had the joy of hormone related migraines every two weeks, at both ends of my cycle. The only way to minimise it is to be on the pill, but eventually my body breaks through and that becomes less useful.

When I moved to Ireland I found that my beloved Ergotomine was nolonger available. It had been deprecated (to use a geeky programming term) in favour of the new Triptans. I was duly moved onto Zomig.

Now for the part that I can really relate to with Kirstie’s post. Because doctors were afraid to give too many repeat scripts, or perhaps because they knew a cash cow when they saw one this was my monthly bill to manage migraines (remember I get them twice a month guaranteed plus maybe 1 or 2 other attacks):

– Doctor’s visit €50
– 10 x Zomig €100

Over 12 months that works out to €1800. After a few months I found out about the drug payment scheme in Ireland, so I effectively got 2 of those Zomigs for free, saving me €240 a year. The doctors never did anything exciting by the way – just write me another script and maybe take my blood pressure from time to time. Easy money for them! Luckily I was in a position to be able to afford this – if I were less well off it would have been a real problem.

Eventually I discovered that I could get Immigran without a script over the order in Northern Ireland. The only catch was I was limited to one box in each pharmacy, so I would need to go up and spend an entire day traipsing around Belfast. I could generally get myself up to 2 months supply this way.

– Train ticket €40
– 20 x immigran tablets €64

Over 12 months that’s down to €960. What a difference! That’s 2 pair of designer shoes difference in a year!

Finally after I started seeing Christian and regularly going to Germany I discovered that there I could buy them online, have them delivered to the house and get 6 months supply in one hit. Cost over 12 months was down to less than €500. With that much savings I could start to look at alternative ways to lessen the number of migraines, such as regular massage.

Some of you may be worried about this, but I’ve had migraine for a long time. I’ve tried preventatives and found that they weren’t suitable for me. I’m also first to a doctor if there’s a change of pattern or anything unusual (twice I’ve been blinded by migraine – straight to the doc!). There’s no point in overdosing – the pain goes away within 2 hours or it’s not a migraine. An interesting side-effect of having the bulk drugs from Germany is that I’m less stressed about whether or not I have drugs to cope with a migraine, and this has reduced the number that I have!

Of course pregnancy put a major damper in all of this. As soon as I became pregnant I knew I had to stop them, or so I kept being told. Paracetemol does nothing at all, and the hormone surges meant migraines every second day in first trimester. After a while I prescribed immigran by the doctors here as the benefit of me taking them was deemed to outweigh the potential (and unknown) risks. According to the drugs board here, the risk in first and second trimester are very small – it’s the third trimester they’re more worried about. Thankfully frequency has dropped considerably down to one a week in second trimester.

So that’s my experiences with migraines, and also with the drugs/prescription system in Ireland, the UK and Germany.

Memory Monday

Memory Monday – Kill Tegan!

When Tegan came over to Ireland on an extended visit back in 2007, we just had to go and seek out the town I’d found out about called Kiltegan – who could possibly resist? Here we are, with me doing as the sign says.

The town itself, which in Irish is known as Cill Teagáin which means Church of St. Teagáin, is in County Wicklow, close to the Cavan border.

 

 

News & Updates, Travel

Farewell Ireland

After 6 years in Ireland I’ve decided that the weather here just isn’t up to the advertised standard. So I’m headed off to Scotland, where I’m told that they have good, proper to-the-bones cold.

When I first arrived in Ireland I knew nothing about the place except for what I’d seen on the news or in twee tourist shows. I didn’t understand most of what was being said to me (and that was in Dublin – imagine the fun of my first encounter with Cork!) Sure, there were bombs being defused every week but I got used to that, the grass was *always* green, the rivers *always* had water in them and the pubs all served Guinness. Eventually I even managed to even get used to the spelling, but let’s not talk about your addresses…

Ireland is a fabulous and beautiful and totally crazy place. There’s castles everywhere (although the advertised two castles in one street in Dalkey didn’t quite live up to my early, naive expectations), lots of cows and sheep with cute black faces. I’ve been given directions that included the line “if you think you’ve gone too far you’re not there yet”. I’ve driven miles and miles through winding country roads behind herds of cattle or sheep, met a lady who was the last surviving occupant of a ruin I’d just been climbing over in a deserted village, had afternoon tea at Father Ted’s House (a show I didn’t understand until I’d been here for a while). I’ve walked over rope bridges, explored neolithic ruins tombs, sat under the capstones of dolmens and drunk whisky at the source. I think it’s fairly safe to claim that I’ve seen more of the place than many of the locals have.

But what the tourist shows and the news don’t show you is just how wonderful the people here are. I’ve been made to feel completely welcome here from the moment I stepped off the plane back in 2005 and heard “I Come From The Land Downunder” playing on the taxi radio.

I’m going to miss all of the great people that I’ve met – from all of those I’ve lived and worked with through to the amazingly resourceful and eclectic fibre artists who have truly inspired me. But at least Edinburgh isn’t too far away, so I’ll be able to come and visit from time to time.

Photos from my travels in Ireland

News & Updates

Farewells

I only met Dr Francis Dolan a couple of times so I didn’t really know him well. But that doesn’t stop me from being shocked and saddened by his sudden death, at the age of only 34, just over a week ago. C knew him better, and other friends of ours as well and were understandably upset so when the funeral arrangements became known I started to work out how we would be able to go.

The funeral was held on Saturday, in a town in Donegal called Killygordon, where Francis’ family live in a parish said to have been founded by St Patrick himself. I picked up a car on Friday afternoon and then picked up C & M from the airport that night as they had both flown in from Edinburgh. On Saturday morning we left Dublin about 7:30 and started the drive. We arrived, after passing through typical gorgeous Irish scenery and blustery showers and waiting for herds of cattle to walk past, at a lovely church some 3 hours later (photo not by me).

The church filled quickly and after a Catholic ceremony with no less than 7 priests, some being family friends, and a wonderful heartfelt speech from his Professor from Cambridge, we filed outside into the sunshine. As we waited to give our condolences to the family and to pass the grave we could see that there were about 300 people there.

Afterwards we went down to the local sports centre for tea. Francis’ parents sat at our table, as did his Professor who, with C&M talked about F’s life outside of Ireland. We spent some time with F’s partner who told us that the wake had seen some three thousand people pass through the house! Later, back at the house, there was more tea and photographs and more memories and tears.

We had to say our goodbyes and by 4 were back in the car for the return trip to Dublin, a brief stop in Malahide for dinner with Steve and his mate Chopper before dropping the boys back to the airport.

It was a tough day, although much tougher for others than it was for us. It was so sad and tragic that the day had to happen, but given that it did I’m so glad that we went.

Dr Francis Dolan was evidently a much loved, admired and respected person, he will be sorely missed by many and will always be loved. I trust that he now rests in peace, I wish his family and loved ones find peace soon as well.

News & Updates, Travel

The Queen’s Speech

“A Uachtaráin agus a chairde”

With these words, followed by the Irish President’s gasped “Wow!” and the 170 odd guest’s applause, Queen Elizabeth did more for Peace in Ireland than can ever be imagined. The speech that followed set the perfect tone and was, quite frankly, a masterpiece. The tone was of mutual admiration, understanding and desire to move forward. The focus was not on politics but on families and relationships – the things that really matter. In her own words, all involved were “able to bow to the past, but not be bound by it”.

At the time I was a few blocks away, yes – in a pub. With much of the city centre closed at various times during the visit it has been a strange feeling – you certainly cannot ignore that there’s something going on. And despite the full contingent of Gardai, the miles and miles of barriers and the strangely sealed post boxes and manholes, the feeling has been boyant and positive. Yes, a bomb was found on a bus and a few hoaxes discovered since, but the feared protests have been so pathetically small that they have helped to highlight to the world that peace can prevail.

I remember as a kid thinking that Ireland was just a place where everyone bombed everyone else. All I saw of it was the bombs on the news. When I arrived, I had a sence of trepedation – not knowing what I would find. And I’ve heard so many stories since coming here of people crossing the border and having guns in their faces, of being singled out for special security searches and the like.

We’ve come an awfully long way – and no doubt we still have a way to go. But the light at the end of the tunnel is nolonger a pinprick, it is bright enough that we can see the door.

Oh and my gosh she looked fabulous!

Geek, Stuff, Travel

Useful Links for Snow in Ireland

A few useful links I’ve come across for weather related stuff in Dublin.

Irish Met Office is a reasonable site.

The HIRLAM model is very accurate at predicting where and when snow will fall within a 24 hr period. Click on ‘Nedbor’

Watch passenger planes depart from/arrive at Dublin airport here. Excellent radar featuring flight info.

Numerous cancellations and delays at Dublin Airport. Listen in to the air traffic control tower.

Snow radar here

Irish Weather Online with a live chat board