Today’s blog challenge for the last day of Migraine & Headache Awareness Month is to watch Aladdin’s “Whole New World” video and discuss the whole new world it would be for me if everyone understood the true pain of migraines and other headache disorders.
I don’t need to watch the video, since I’ve seen Aladdin a thousand times. And I’m only going to discuss one area where understanding of migraines would lead to a huge difference for all of us: the Emergency Room. The true place of terror, and where it matters most. Where we tend to be treated the worst.
I hobble into the ER, ice pressed to my forehead, clutching a basin to puke in. I can’t fully open my eyes to take in the number of patients in the waiting room or the look I’m getting from the triage nurse. But this time, it doesn’t matter.
“Oh no, do you have a migraine? Step right this way, into the dark room.” The WHAT?! “Oh yes didn’t you know we built this? It’s a whole new world, isn’t it?”
The door clicks shut and I am guided to a bed and pillow. The room is mercifully, amazingly dark, and besides that, free of odors and noise. “Sound proof,” she confirms, and takes my vitals gently while I’m lying down. “Let me get someone to start your IV to get you rehydrated,” the kind nurse says gently. Right away?! I think? Amazing. I hear J breathe a sigh of relief. We are always prepared for a fight in the ER, maybe this time will be different. “The doctor will be in as soon as she’s able and we’ll get you something for pain sweetheart, I know how you must be hurting.”
The IV with fluids is started, as promised. Still, I am rhythmically pounding my fist into my forehead. I won’t feel any freedom from fear, really, until I see the doctor. Before long she rushes in.
“Hi, so sorry to keep you waiting. No, no, don’t sit up, I won’t even turn the lights on. I know you have a migraine and I can see you’re in pain even without them. What cocktail usually works for you, dear?”
I almost do sit up, in shock. It takes me a moment to answer. What, no irritated questions? Penlights shining in my eyes? Asking how often I come here, when that information is available in my file? No not telling me what they are going to give me? No scorn, no doubt? “Um. Phenergan, Benadryl, Decadron, and Dilaudid,” I answer warily.
“All right then. Coming right up,” she says reassuringly, squeezing my arm. After the most quick, routine neurological check she bustles out.
I sob silently in relief, J holding my hand, preparing for the long wait for meds, sometimes an hour long. At least I have the sealed, dark room this time instead of an open-topped curtain, hallway fluorescents shining unforgivably into my eyes, the disruptive noises of the whole ER floating in.
But shockingly, the door opens again after only a few minutes. “Sorry,” the nurse whispers. I hear the vials clank onto the counter.
“Wow, that was fast!” J says in surprise.
“Yeah, we saw you guys coming in and checked Elizabeth’s file,” the nurse explained. “We ordered what she usually gets so there wouldn’t be a wait, and just needed Doc to confirm it. We try to not keep migraine emergencies waiting any longer than necessary since the new protocol.”
She is already inserting the syringes into my IV, boom boom boom. “Benadryl,” she breathes, and I already feel more relaxed. “Phenergan…”
“Yes, the American Headache Society released a new suggested protocol for emergency departments and we decided to adopt it.”
I can’t even breathe. I feel the tingling all over my body as the steroid, Decadron, enters my blood stream. “And the Dilaudid,” she says, and the strong pain killer slams into my shoulders, stopping my lungs for a moment, and I can feel my heart slamming as the pain is obliterated from my skull, shattered, scattered. Grateful tears slide down my cheeks.
I can’t speak, but J says, “Wow, that’s really incredible!” And I think I must be dreaming.
And of course, I am dreaming. But what an amazing, whole new world it would be if all emergency rooms treated us so well! To be fair, there are times in my local ER when I AM treated pretty well, and I know I’m lucky. But there are plenty of times I’m greeted with suspicion and derision, and I read stories in my support groups every day of the same. We have a long, long way to go.
Of course there are so many areas of my life which would be completely different if everyone understood my illness. I might still be working, for example. But really it’s the medical professionals whom I wish could really, truly get it.
Thanks to all my fellow advocates and bloggers who have made this Migraine & Headache Awareness Month so fantastic! Let’s keep it going all year long!