Chronic Migraines in Children

My journey with chronic migraines began when I was fourteen. They were brutal for about three years, but around a year ago I started to get significantly less migraines. Being a child with chronic migraines was really difficult, mainly due to the ignorance of adults. Migraines are often seen as something that only affects adults, and many people do not understand the severe impact they can cause on someone’s life.

The Diamond Headache Clinic asked me to share information about childhood migraines, and I was happy to oblige since there is not nearly enough awareness about them. I highly recommend viewing their presentation, because it is full of lots of great information about chronic migraines and abdominal migraines in children!

Here are some of the statistics I found interesting:

  1. The average onset for migraines is 7 years old for boys, and 10 years old for girls
  2. After the age of twelve, around 80% of people who suffer from migraines are women
  3. Migraines affect up to 5% of school aged children

 

Treatments for chronic migraines typically include preventative medications, triptans, and sometimes NSAIDS. In my case, these things did not work for me due to a plethora of underlying medical conditions. It’s always important to make sure you don’t have any other medical problems that could be causing the migraines.

Do you have migraines? What’s your journey for treatment been like?

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Self-Advocating with Chronic Illness

Now I have to admit, this hasn’t always been my strong suit.

I would try to build the courage to speak up and stand firm against doctors when they questioned my symptoms or wanted to start a treatment plan I didn’t agree with but when the time came to self-advocate I found it rather difficult.

I’m definitely more comfortable disagreeing or refuting doctors now than I was at the beginning of my journey, then again I’ve had five years to practice. Doctors are people too, even though society puts them on a pedestal they don’t always get it right. As a patient there are times where it’s your job to say no and put your foot down. It’s so easy to blindly follow a Doctors orders, but that can end poorly quick. Doing your research and getting to know your own body is crucial when chronically ill.

Self-advocating is probably one of the most important things a chronically ill patient has to do. Sometimes you have to push and push to get the adequate medical care you deserve. Other times you’re fighting with the insurance company to try and get them to cover a medication that you desperately need. It’s never ending and exhausting, but so so necessary. Unfortunately with some chronic illnesses many Doctors may not be aware of all the treatment options available or even aware of what the illness entails at all. While it’s always best to see a doctor who’s treated someone with your specific illness before, that isn’t always an option. In those cases you have to be able to self-advocate and teach the health care professionals about what you need.

I have a lot of symptoms that are “weird” or don’t match the other things I deal with. I’ve also dealt with some side effects of medication that are rather uncommon, and instead of listening Doctors and other health care professionals can make excuses or just straight up not believe you. One problem a lot of people with chronic pain run into when visiting the ER is the staff not believing you’re at a certain pain level because you’re not crying or don’t “look like you’re in that much pain.” I personally don’t respond to pain by crying, and unless you know me really well you probably can’t tell by my face how I’m feeling. There is no wrong reaction to pain, but sometimes certain reactions make it more difficult to receive the care you need.

When you’re in the ER or admitted to the hospital it’s always best to have someone there who can help advocate for you. There may be times where you’re too incapacitated to self-advocate and it’s important to have a friend or family member who knows your situation and can help relay information to the doctors and nurses. I know when I’m in extreme pain, brain fog sets in and it makes it a lot harder to explain things and recall everything that’s happened leading up to the ER visit, hospital admission, doctor’s appointment etc. Other times I just don’t have the energy to explain everything or go back and forth with the doctors and nurses.

A big part of self-advocating for your health comes down to confidence. Confidence speaking to strangers and authority figures, confidence talking about your body and uncomfortable things that may come with that, and confidence being honest about how you’re really feeling instead of giving everyone the rose-colored glasses version. For me (and I think most people) confidence will always be a journey. Some days I feel ready to tackle the world and I don’t care what anyone else thinks, and other days I feel insecure. Self-advocating for my health has helped me gain confidence when speaking to authority figures and talking about uncomfortable subjects.

Do you find self-advocating difficult? How do you self-advocate? Let me know!

Lots of Love,

Alyssa

All the Appointments!

Since I last did a health update a lot of things have happened.

First I went to an allergist/immunologist who I really liked and she ran the Tryptase test for MCAD. Unfortunately that came back fine, and so did all the other tests she ran. She started me on Singulair, ranitidine, and Allegra for the all over itching I’m having. They’ve kind of worked, but the days I still have the itching it’s extreme and I feel like I want to peel back a layer of my skin.

I also went back to see my electrophysiologist for a follow-up from my EP study. It wasn’t surprising to me that this visit was kind of a waste, but it was still annoying. He upped my metoprolol dose to now 25mg 2x a day from 12.5mg 2x a day. Due to some unexplained episodes of waking up gasping, my heart skipping a beat, then beating really hard and pain shooting through my body I’m wearing a monitor for a week. I’ve done the 24 hour Holter monitor before but this is the Cardiokey. Hopefully it gives us some answers. He doesn’t think they are anything to worry about, but he also doesn’t do much diagnostic testing and in my opinion generally does not care. Unfortunately I have to see him in May to get the results from the monitor.

My mom works as a case manager in a hospital and one of her friends is a Cardiologist. She explained my whole cardio story to her and she thinks I should get a second opinion and that my electrophysiologist isn’t doing enough. So now we’re looking for one who will take seventeen year olds.

Because I definitely needed more specialists in my life, I saw a rheumatologist for the first time. I’ve been having joint pain and swelling that didn’t go away after I weaned off topiramate, so we went to see what they could do and what suggestions they had. My mom had to call 12 different rheumatologist to find one who would take me. Most of them didn’t see anyone under 18, so she called pediatric places but they wouldn’t see new patients over 16, being 17 I was screwed. Fortunately she explained my situation to one office and the secretary asked the doctor if she would make an exception and see someone under eighteen and she agreed, God bless nice people. This doctor was so kind and understanding.  She ran something like 21 blood tests to make sure I didn’t have any signs of rheumatology related diseases like Lupus or RA. I also got x-rays of my hands and feet, and we should get results from all of this within 1-2 weeks.

She thinks I may have fibromyalgia on top of whatever mystery illness I’m fighting, but doesn’t want to diagnose me with it just yet since it’s something that is way over diagnosed and once you get that diagnosis most doctors won’t look past it. I’m not surprised she thinks I could have fibromyalgia, but I am really happy she wants to do more and look into other things.

In two weeks I have a follow up with the allergist, then in eight weeks I have a follow up with the rheumatologist, and in seven weeks is the follow up with the electrophysiologist. Ahh so many! Some of these would be sooner but our insurance is changing as of May 1st so for the first 15 days while things are switching over it’s best not to have any appointments. I also have a dentist appointment to fix some broken fillings in May. It’s gonna be busy, but I’m glad we’re getting the diagnosis process going again.

If you read this whole thing, thank you but also why? Haha I’m kidding, but seriously thank you for taking the time to read my posts. Let me know how you’re doing!

Lots of Love

and appointments,

Alyssa

Why are you here?: Chronically Misunderstood

This one is going to be a bit of a back story, but I’ll make it quick. At the time I in high school and it was my freshman year. The school I went to really didn’t like that I was absent a lot and made me jump through a lot of hoops in order to “make up my time.” This had happened for the past two years I was in middle school as well, but their obsession with me being in school makes this story funny to me. Also at this time doctors thought I had abdominal migraines also known as cyclical vomiting syndrome.

I walked into school late and went to check in  before heading to class. Normally I would go to my house office, but the secretary at the front desk stopped me and asked me my name. When I told her who I was she looked me up in the computer system which I thought was odd. I had come into school late a lot and no one ever questioned me. Normally I just went to the office, got a note, and was on my way.

The lady started to look really confused and said, “you aren’t supposed to be here.” I didn’t know what to say to that. Here I am at school, specifically at a school that get’s very angry when I’m absent yet this lady is telling me I’m not supposed to be here? “You’ve been counted absent for the whole day,” she told me. I responded with, “I don’t know why, I didn’t tell anyone I was going to be gone all day.”

She furiously tapped away on the computer and I just stood there throughly confused. She walked away into the main office and came back looking relieved. She exclaims, rather loudly I might add, ” OH YOU’RE STOMACH MIGRAINE GIRL!” I guess I had developed a reputation. “Yeah…” I replied trying not to laugh. For some reason being stomach migraine girl made everything okay and she let me go on my way. I’m still honestly not sure what that situation was all about, but it was funny nonetheless.

Tell me a funny or weird story about your high school experience!

Lots of Love,

Alyssa

Daith Piercing for Migraines?

Whether you have migraines or not you may have seen posts that circulate the internet about daith piercings being cures for migraines. The daith is the inner most piece of cartilage on your ear and it’s supposed to act as an acupressure point.

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As a skeptical person I’m not really buying this as a migraine cure. I get the idea, but I don’t really think it will work. With that being said, my mom has had three co-workers get this done and all of them have had less migraines. I could try to come up for explanations for why they got better after getting the piercing, but I’m not going to. It really worked for them and so I’m going to try it… with no expectations of course.

The worst thing that could happen is that it doesn’t work. This isn’t invasive and I really like the look of them so I would probably keep the piercing either way. The place her co-workers went specializes in this piercing for migraines and is reasonably priced, so I’m going to go there as well. I’m not a huge fan of a lot piercings but I think one or two on the ear (that aren’t the typical lobe) can look cool. Some people look really good with other piercings like their nose or septum, I just don’t think I would be one of this people.  I’ve wanted my helix pierced for around two years now but I’ve been vetoed by my parents.

This place doesn’t do appointments, only walk-ins but I’m planning on going on Saturday. You have to get one side done, wait a month for it to heal some, and then get the other side done if it doesn’t completely relieve your migraines or you get them on both sides. I plan to make an update post once I get it and then again after I’ve had them both for a few months.

Have you ever tried any “internet cures” for your chronic illness? Did they work?

Lots of Love,

Alyssa

 

In the Beginning… of Chronic Illness

When I first became chronically ill (long before I released this was going to be long term thing) there were cards, flowers, and edible arrangements. One of the biggest revelations I’ve had since getting sick is that people get tired of caring and sympathy runs dry.

Friends leave and family members stop asking how your doing. Teachers stop following your so called “accommodations” and respond with anger instead of understanding when you miss yet another day of school. No matter how hard you try to not talk about it, people won’t want to hear about your illness,  years or even months down the road. The one person you can’t stop caring is you, you don’t get that luxury.

The response to others acute illness always amazes me. In the past few weeks my older brother has had some random severe abdominal pain and my parents freaked out. They both tried to take him to the ER, although he refused on multiple occasions, and a few days ago both my mom and my sister took him. They all thought he had a kidney stone, but diagnostic testing showed nothing. I’m sympathetic to the pain, I offer to help and gave suggestions to ease the pain in the least invasive way I knew how. It does hurt a little bit to see everyone jump and scramble when he has pain for a few hours, but when I’m in constant daily pain it’s no big deal. Acute pain is different, and I know that. When you don’t know whats going on it’s scary… oh wait I know a thing or two about that. I start to forget that this isn’t normal.

I don’t need nor do I want a ton of sympathy or people swooning over me. Would a little more recognition of my pain be nice? Yes of course, but I have a very supportive family and I know their tired of all of this too. They didn’t sign up for doctors appointments, hospital stays, or procedures anymore than I did. I try my best not to complain or talk about it all the time, but it’s consumed my life. Since I’ve left school my whole life revolves around being sick, which isn’t very healthy and I’m trying my best to make some changes, but their aren’t a lot of great alternatives.

When pain meds don’t work, I can’t sleep well, and I don’t leave you house much because of the pain and fatigue, complaining can be the only outlet I have… and I hate that about myself. I was never a complainer before chronic illness and for the past five years of this I really haven’t been at all. These past five months or so however have been really hard emotionally and that definitely plays a role in it. Complainers are annoying, not fun to be around, and I don’t want to be one. Luckily or unluckily for her I guess, I only really complain to my mom so at least not everyone in my life thinks I’m a huge complainer. She probably doesn’t either, but she’s nice to listen to all of it. I hope this is one of those situations where I think I’m complaining a lot but in all actuality I really don’t ; I’m not so sure that’s true though.

We all have things we need to work on I guess.

Lots of Love,

Alyssa

EP Study Update

I’ve began this post a few times but only ended up with jumbled words and a lot of tears.

It’s been a few days since I was discharged and the black cloud that was hanging over my head is slowly but surely starting to pass. I didn’t want to publish the posts I wrote in one of my darker hours because I didn’t feel they were helpful, encouraging, or good pieces of writing. I release now though that chronic illness isn’t always gonna be helpful or encouraging, sometimes it’s dark and sad and depressing.

I’m going to make this as short as possible so that I don’t bore you and I don’t have to think about it too much. So after that long introduction here’s what happened.

I arrived at the hospital at 9:45 and waited till around 11:30 to go back into pre-op. They had told us to be there at ten, but never told my mom when the actual procedure was scheduled. When we got back four different people over two hours tried to draw my blood and it was very stressful. I couldn’t have the EP done without the labs but none of the nurses or phlebotomists were good at drawing blood.  When we  complained that we had called ahead numerous times to warn them and asked for someone who was good at drawing blood to be on-hand my pre-op nurse said, “well it looks like we might just have to cancel the procedure if we can’t get any labs.”

She was an awful woman who was incredibly rude and made the whole situation a lot worse. When the fourth lady came in to draw my blood I started to get upset. I hadn’t eaten or drank anything in 18+ hours, I had less than five hours of sleep the night before, and I was having a hot flash which was making me irritated. On top of all that this lady tells me after waiting for hours they might cancel the procedure. I started crying, which is something I rarely do, and the fourth nurse who is looking for a vein notices. She responds with  kindness and sympathy, and then evil nurse #1 says. “oh, she’s just scared of the needle.”

This was when I just about lost it. I’m not afraid of needles and I had already been stuck three other times by incompetent people with no sympathy, yet not a single tear. The fact that she had the audacity after being so rude to act like I was being a baby and was “just scared of needles” made me wanted to scream. Luckily nurse four got the blood they needed and an IV, so things could started moving along.

Expect they didn’t. That’s when nurse #1 told us that my doctors current EP study isn’t going well and the patient coded. Not something you want to hear when the exact same procedure is about to happen to you. She said it should be two more hours and at this point it was 1:15pm. That was also the last time we saw her. She went home for the day and left us alone in pre-op with… no one. When someone came as overflow from post-op two hours later we asked them to call about my procedure and someone from the EP lab had to come get me since transport had gone home for the day.

I said my goodbyes to my parents and was brought into the EP lab which felt like some sort of futuristic room where they do experiments on people. It was also freezing and I was basically naked expect for the thin hospital gown so I started shaking, maybe that had something to with the fact it was now 4 o’clock and hadn’t eaten since 7 the night before but hey it was go time. A team of people started sticking things all over me and didn’t say much. One nurse was really kind and tried to tell me that everything was going to be okay, but deep down I knew she was wrong. I felt a weird combination of sad and numb as my body got my moved around and things stuck to it. I sat in silence as tears streamed down my face and in that moment I knew I had made the wrong decision.

I woke up from the study to hear nurse from the lab tell my post-op nurse that I had an electrophysiology study without an ablation. Those words rang in my ears and I began to cry yet no tears would fall. They found nothing. All day I had an overwhelming negative feeling and so I wasn’t surprised, just hurt and disappointed.

The recovery process wasn’t anything like I was told it would be. The scheduler told us that I would have to lie still for a few hours, but they weren’t very strict about it and if I had to go to the bathroom I could get up. This was a complete lie. I had to lie there for four hours without moving and wasn’t allowed to get up at all. It was much for painful than I thought it would be and I felt completely unprepared for everything that happened.

The next part was very scary. I started to feel off and bad. Those are two very vague terms, but I didn’t have a better way to describe it. My right hand started to tremor and at first I didn’t think much of it. My mom noticed it and was worried she called for the nurse and it got worse. Both my arms and legs began to tremor rather violently and I wasn’t sure what was going on. I was scared and everyone around me seemed nervous. They called a rapid response team and  within seconds my room filled with at least a dozen people. They started putting more electrodes all over me for the defibrillator and wheeled the machine in. Nurses started asking me questions like, “do you know where you are?” I was completely conscious, just really scared. They gave me a beta blocker and the tremors started to slow down.

The doctor with the RRT wasn’t very concerned with the tremor and once they slowed the tiniest bit, he considered me fine and they all started to leave. The tremors stopped completely about fifteen minutes after they left. They drew some labs, but ultimately didn’t really care why I was shaking. I was very disappointed in their response. When I saw the doctor who did my EP study the following morning he said I should ask my neurologist about it and he doesn’t think it’s a cardiac issue. That’s bullshit. My heart rate and blood pressure shot up while I was shaking, he just doesn’t care enough to try and figure it out. He also added, ” in the EP lab you were shaking, so it was probably just anxiety.” To which I responded, “it was freezing in there,” and he just shrugged me off with, “yeah it’s cold.” I love having my very real and very scary physical medical issues passed off as psychological issue that I don’t have.

Overall the experience was awful and I regret it 100%. I don’t think it was necessary and I wasn’t informed enough to have made the decision. Nothing I read up on could have prepared me for all of this, and I’m extremely disappointed in the level of care I received. I’m not sure how I’m going to move forward from here, I don’t have many options. This was one of the worst medical experiences I’ve had and I’ve spared some details for both my sake and yours. I guess what I would take away from this is trust your gut. You know what’s right. Listen to your body, and don’t feel pressured into doing something you’re not comfortable with because regret is a terrible feeling.

Lots of Love,

Alyssa