News & Updates, Parenthood

Pain in the Head… again

Migraine

Today is yet another migraine day. It started at 2am or thereabouts. I took the sumatriptan and managed to get back to sleep. At 6:30 it was still there, more sumatriptan but wide awake wee people means sleep is not an option.

This is the fourth migraine in the last week. I know that it’s hormonal – it’s the 3 month anniversary of Elisa joining us so my hormones are a total train wreck at the moment. But knowing the cause does not make them hurt less. It also doesn’t make it easier to deal with the accompanying fuzzy feeling, the lack of hand-eye coordination and the underlying terror that somehow my brain being out of action will lead to one or both of my children being hurt.

How could I hurt my kids? Consider these possible scenarios – How much formula did I add to the water? Walking through a doorway with a baby and missing the opening. Carrying children up stairs and missing a step. Not seeing a car on the road because of blind spots. Not being able to react fast enough to catch a toddler. Even once the pain has gone thanks to the drugs, the general brain wrapped in cotton wool effects will linger.

So today we do as little as possible. Cancelled my planned shopping trip. Cancelled hot lunch plans and cancelled playground trip plans. The goal today is simply to get through until Papa can get home from work.

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.

News & Updates

WIP Wednesday – BumpWatch

A WIP Wednesday update with a difference – I’m pleased to be able to finally show the world our little Bump.

These pictures were taken at the 14 week scan just before Christmas, it was amazing to see Bump open and close it’s little hands as though waving at us, and to dig it’s feet into me and push itself back into a more comfy position. We don’t know the gender as yet – and if we do find out I’m not so sure I’ll be telling, will just have to wait and see 🙂

We’re due in the second half of June, which means the horrible queasy and migraine-filled first trimester are finally over!

Stuff

A trip to the ER

It’s certainly been an eventful week for me!

It started with a slight scratch in my throat last Thursday, right before I flew to Edinburgh for the weekend. I had a good rest on Friday and spent a lovely day with Christian so I figured that it probably wouldn’t be too bad, but alas by Saturday my nose was running. Grr… especially annoying since we were seeing Anton and Gavin whom we hadn’t seen in far too long. The cold, however, seemed to be reasonable and so we had a great time catching up and it was so brilliant to see the guys. I figured that was the worst of it but how wrong was I! By Sunday afternoon the migraine had set in.

Monday I worked from home, I was exhausted, my shoulders ached, I was feverish and my head was still sore – I treated the migraine yet again. (It’s not totally uncommon to treat for three days of migraine for me) I could barely keep my eyes open and was sound asleep by about 9:30 that night.

Tuesday I had to get up at 5:30 to get my flight back to Dublin. Not sure how I made it, my head felt heavy, I felt weak and soooo tired. I slept for most of the flight, and most of the bus trip to the office. Once in the office I started to feel positively ill and feverish again, and the migraine was back. After lunch I went home – no idea how I got there, it’s not a long walk but every step was so painful. Definitely a bad attack.

Wednesday I couldn’t go to work, I stayed in bed with fever and sore head and drinking water like we were about to enter a drought. I staggered downstairs to the pharmacy at one point for rehydration salts – the pharmacy was teaming with people looking for cold remedies, this is not a nice one! By late afternoon the migraine had stopped responding to drugs – not a good sign, it had also crossed hemispheres and I was still feeling ill. I realised I hadn’t eaten more than a few mouthfuls since lunch on Sunday. Not a good sign, so it was off to the doctor.

Doctor gave me some drugs to knock me out and a referral to the ER in case when I woke it was still bad, I figured this would be it – I’d wake up and all would be right with the world. So I went home happy in the knowledge that I would soon sleep well. I did. But I also woke up with the migraine still bad and still there. And so at midnight I found myself checking in to the ER and trying to answer the questions from the triage nurse.

I spent the next 8 hours in ER. It was a quiet night so I was able to get some sleep on the horrible wooden seats in the waiting room before they called me in. Took nearly two hours, mainly because of an ambulance arrival and then the Guards brought in two people who had clearly been in some kind of altercation. I was in a lot of pain, but I know enough to know that the triage nurse would have bumped me down the list into the long wait category. Finally it was my turn. I was given at least 4 rounds of various drugs and had my blood tested. They tested my for viral meningitis (I always thought one of the symptoms was a rash but apparently not) and most likely various other possible causes. The conclusion was that I was suffering from a dehydration induced migraine (after a previous migraine from other causes), a standard rhinovirus (cold) plus a rotavirus (stomach flu) that had knocked out my gastrointestinal system so that the normal migraine drugs weren’t being effectively absorbed, I’d have to look at upping my doses for a while and so they sent me home.

I spent Thursday mainly in bed, missed the This is Knit Yarniversary party (I was looking forward to that). The headache came back again Thursday night so I hit it hard and slept like a log apart from the strange incident at 3am where someone started shouting hysterically at “Michael”. Today I’m resting as well. Still no appetite, it’s been 5 days since I had a proper meal now. But the good news is that I feel like I’m on the mend. Have even started a new knitting project 🙂