I ask anyone who thinks migraines are not serious or not life-threatening to please read this post. The lack of training and education of ER doctors in particular about the treatment of migraines led to a dangerous and life-changing situation for me last year. Let me explain…
Saturday, August 13, 2011:
I hit the gym before meeting my mom in the suburbs to get a bridesmaid’s dress altered. When we stopped for brunch, I noticed I was starting to get a migraine. I brushed it off because we needed to head to the mall to buy shoes for the dress. I had a few incredibly busy weeks facing me at the law firm, and I would not have the time to try on shoes before the wedding. I ended up leaving the mall early and heading back to my apartment in the city. The pain was getting so unbearable, I decided to take an Imitrex.
As the evening progressed, things got worse and worse. I took a second Imitrex pill. My boyfriend helped me administer an injection of Imitrex. And two hours later, a second injection of Imitrex. Around midnight, I decided we needed to get to the emergency room. We drove up to my preferred ER in the suburbs (it’s sad that I have a favorite ER), and my brother met us to cheer me up.
Sunday, August 14, 2011: ER Visit #1
A very kind (but admittedly uninformed about migraines) ER doctor worked with me. He asked what types of IV medication I usually took and gave me the Dilaudid, Zofran, and steroids drip that I usually got in the ER. After a few hours, I felt the pain significantly decreased enough that I was ready to go home. I went to sleep around 4 am.
My migraine returned and woke me up around 10 am. It was on the exact same side, which had me very concerned. (For me, rebound migraines will pop up on the other side of my face, so I knew this was different).
Sunday, August 14, 2011: ER Visit #2
My boyfriend drove me back to the same hospital in the suburbs. This time, my parents met us there. Despite several tearful requests that the tech use my right arm vein to start an IV, he attempted to put it in my left hand, left wrist, left elbow, right hand, and right wrist, before realizing the right elbow was the only one that worked. I was crying with pain: each attempt coupled with the return of the migraine was too much to bear.
While he was poking me, a nurse was taking my blood pressure, and a different ER doctor, who we found to be stone cold and insensitive, was asking my entire medical history. The scene was entirely too hectic for me to focus on the conversation with the ER doctor, and I was in too much pain to give her the coherent answers she required. However, she refused to get the answers from my boyfriend or my mom and refused to resume her questioning when the IV was finished. She demanded the answers from me right there and then, as I laid there being poked and prodded by the ER staff.
The one thing she did right was inform us of the problems with narcotics as migraine relief. She gave me an IV of Toradol and Reglan for the pain. She added in a dose of Benadryl.
This is where things got bad…
I asked my mom to put some lip gloss on me. My hands and feet were going numb, and my lips were chapped. She did and I started begging her for more. She was slathering it on my lips and laughing because she thought I was just being goofy. Then I started crying hysterically and screamed at her to take all of it off. I screamed that I wanted my blankets. I completely lost all feeling in my mouth, arms, legs, hands, and feet. I couldn’t feel myself breathing anymore. I was thinking a million things but could not get the words out because I was unable to move my lips. The last thing I remember is turning to my boyfriend and saying “This is what it feels like to die” and someone pushing the big red button over my bed.
When I regained consciousness, I was greeted with an oxygen tank going up my nose and the cold voice of the ER doctor telling my family that it was “just an anxiety attack” and none of the drugs she gave me “could have possibly created that reaction”. Because I was so emotional when I tried to give her my medical history, she said, I “just needed to get on anxiety medication.”
THAT STILL MAKES ME SO ANGRY.
I have had anxiety attacks before. That, my doctor friend, was NOT “just an anxiety attack.” In the intense research I’ve done over the past 8 months of writing this blog, I believe it was either an overdose, an allergic reaction, or a result of interaction of all the medications I had taken over the past 24 hours. I’d like to hear what other doctors think as well.
Sunday night August 14, 2011 - Monday morning, August 15, 2011:
I went back to my apartment at around 6 pm that night. Did I mention it was my parents’ anniversary? They completely missed their celebration and my mom stayed with me. She tried to feed me plain pasta (an Italian girl’s comfort food) at one point and I fell asleep with a spoonful in my mouth. I did not leave the apartment for a few days because I was unable to garner the energy to walk from the couch to my door.
I’ve come so far in one year. Tomorrow, I’ll write about how this experience affected me for the next few weeks both physically and mentally. But for now, I just want to say happy 30th anniversary to my wonderful parents! I’m thrilled that I’ll actually be able to celebrate with them this year.
Want to hear what happened next? Read the rest of the story here.
Can you relate to my experience? How have your migraine ER experiences been?