Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1459470-Head-Trauma-and-Migraine-Headaches-1978
by Lorenr
Rated: 18+ · Chapter · Biographical · #1459470
My life-long struggle with migraine headaches after a head trauma at age 11.
Aspirin Damage

I get these killer headaches
I get one everyday
I wake up with a migraine
Since you ran away

Got a load of tension
Burnin' up my neck
Something is wrong with my suspension
So pass those tablets to this wreck

Aspirin damage, Aspirin damage
Kills the pain, destroys the brain
No one told me 'bout Aspirin damage
Sometimes I find myself shakin'
From the medication taken
Oh yeah.

I balance my Excedrin
And Anacins in stacks
I'm a pain reliever junkie
I got a Bayer on my back.

I went to see the doctor
He walked me down the hall
Said "Strip down 'til you're naked
Your suit, your tie and all."

Aspirin damage, Aspirin damage
Kills the pain, destroys the brain
Aspirin damage, my disadvantage
Sometimes I find myself shakin'
From the medication taken
Oh yeah.

Aspirin damage, Aspirin damage
Kills the pain, destroys the brain
No one told me 'bout Aspirin damage
Sometimes I find myself shakin'
From the medication taken
Oh yeah

- “Aspirin Damage” by Alice Cooper

The Head Trauma and The Migraine Headaches-1978-Present

Just a shitty day…

I woke up this morning with a headache. It wasn’t bad: say one out of ten on the pain scale with one being mild pain and ten being the most agonizing pain one has ever felt. Within minutes, the headache is climbing the pain scale. I need to act soon so this doesn’t get out of control and ruin my day. I go to my medicine cabinets. Hmm…choices… How bad is the headache now and is it getting worse? It feels like it’s getting worse. Toradol! I grab a fresh syringe and a small brown vial of Toradol. I fill the syringe with the contents of the vial. In the bathroom, I lower my pants to expose my thigh muscle. I grab the syringe and a chunk of meat on my left thigh. Well…here goes… 1, 2, 3, plunge. I’m always amazed how little that hurts. I push down on the syringe: hopefully, the syringe empties quickly; otherwise, I’ve hit “something”. I remove the syringe, cover the injection site with gauze and apply pressure- it’s a bleeder. Now the waiting game begins. What’s the headache going to do? Ten minutes goes by. I think the headache has stopped getting worse. I take my ten pills that I take every morning: most to prevent headaches. These pills do not stop a headache in progress. They should prevent headache cycles from beginning. The other medications that I take should abort (stop) headaches once they have started.

I’ve had headaches for the last five days. Why? I have E.S.P. I can predict precipitation better than any weatherman. I’m a human barometer. And do you know how I know that it’s going to rain or snow? I’m going to get killer headaches until the damn storm starts. That can be days in the making. Thirty minutes has passed. I’ve had several mugs of dark coffee. The headache feels a little better. It’s not gone, but it’s at three out of ten on the pain scale. And I wait a while…

Finally, I get motivated. I shower, dress and walk my dog “Baby”. Then it’s off to work. I drive 3.5 miles and I’m at work. I bring to work a bag with two Toradol shots and an even stronger medicine that I also inject called “Xyprexa”. Xyprexa is very sedating. If I take a full shot at work, I’ll be asleep at my desk in 15 minutes. Also, I won’t be able to drive home safely. Usually, I take half of a shot at work. I also carry a medicine container with my lunchtime and dinnertime pills plus extra headache abortive pills. I still have a headache. Because I’m working, the headache jumps up one point to four out of ten on the pain scale. It’s time to try something else. I take a pill, a strong muscle relaxant, called “Soma”. After 60 minutes, the Soma has done nothing. I take another one. Today seems as though it will suck again like the last 5 days! And I wait a while…

This headache is getting worse. It feels like my forehead and temples are on fire, under great pressure with one spot that feels as if a nail is going in and out of my skull. I decide to take another shot of Toradol. I go into the executive bathroom and give myself another shot of Toradol. This one is also a bleeder. I bury the syringe (capped and put back in its plastic wrapper) and medicine vial in the bathroom wastebasket. After about 5 minutes, I leave the bathroom. I go back to my desk. And I wait a while…

By lunchtime, I am desperately sick; I have a pounding, burning, headache, nausea, weakness, and my color is a shade of gray. My headache climbs to seven out of ten on the pain scale. I decide to take half a shot of Xyprexa. It’s back to the executive bathroom to inject myself again: this time with Xyprexa. I need to go home, but I don’t want to lose my job, and I am paid as an hourly consultant. If I leave, I stop making money and risk losing the contract. The Xyprexa seems to have calmed things down. My headache is back to four out of ten on the pain scale. Again, I go back to my desk. And I wait a while…

By 3:00 PM the headache has shot past its previous pain level. It is an eight out if ten on the pain scale. I call my headache doctor. He calls into the pharmacy some Thorazine with Benadryl. I rush to the pharmacy where I pick up six Thorazine tablets and six Benadryl pills. I take one Thorazine tablet and one Benadryl pill. I decide that I must go home early. I’m very sick and in much pain. There is no point to staying at work because my head hurts so bad that I cannot concentrate. I want to cry. This time, there is no time to wait!

I rush home, and Baby greets me. She’s very happy to see me, but I know that I have to walk her soon. Before her walk, I take another Thorazine and Benadryl. The walk is agonizing for me because the bright sunlight just makes my headache worse. And Baby is taking her sweet time just being a dog. When we get home, I go straight for my bed. And I wait until the medications knock me unconscious.

I wake up at 8:00 PM. I’ve been asleep for four hours. My headache is not getting better. I decide to take my last shot of Xyprexa. After the shot, I’m groggy but my head still is agonizingly painful. I decide that I need to go to the Emergency Room. I call a taxi. Thirty minutes in the taxi and $25 later, I am at my headache doctor’s primary hospital. When I arrive, an Emergency Room staff member notifies the doctor on call from the Headache Clinic that I am in their Emergency Room. The doctor recommends intravenous medications including: Depacon, an anti-seizure medicine, a whopping shot of Benadryl and Dilaudid, a powerful pain killer. After two hours in the dark, with ice on my head, my headache is down to one out of ten on the pain scale. I am released from the Emergency Room. A taxi takes me back home where I pass out and pray that tomorrow will be better than today. It is hard to believe this, but my headaches can be even worse than this one. There are no guarantees. Today’s headache cost over $1000 in medications, hospital treatments, lost wages, and travel expenses. And I wait until tomorrow…

So why does this happen?

When I was in fifth grade, my family rented a condominium in Florida for our vacation. We always liked Florida: Grandparents, Aunt and Uncle and first cousin, NASA, Disney World and Monkey Jungle. Who could want more? We were there only a few days when my parents found me unconscious on the bathroom floor. They were woken up by the sound of my head hitting the bathroom floor. The next day, I was unresponsive, lethargic, and had cognitive problems. My parents took me to a pediatrician. We were from out of town, and this doctor could have easily given me some antibiotics and sent us on our way. He didn’t. After hearing about my fall the previous night, he said, “go to Holy Cross Hospital now and I will meet you there tonight.”That’s the last thing that I remember and only vaguely. My memories of the pre-fall part of our vacation are sparse. I remember only small flashes of memories of the vacation, generally.

I have no recollection of being admitted to or having any test run at Holy Cross Hospital. I fell into a coma. When I awoke, my eyesight was blurry but it came into focus. The first thing that I saw clearly was a crucifix with Jesus on it. I thought that I had died, that I was in heaven, and I was the wrong religion- Jewish. Initially, I was more than a little concerned about this potential theological conflict. Nonetheless, I really had to use the bathroom. I noticed a commode in my room, and I raced to it. By that time, several nurses had rushed into my room. They told me not to move. It was too late: I was on the commode. I had no idea where I was, where my parents were, what had happened to me and I was overwhelmingly mystified at my predicament.

I had suffered from a subdural hematoma in my right pre-frontal lobe. Put simply, I had a blood clot the size of a quarter directly above my right eye and it was pressing against my brain. The doctors were never sure if the fall caused the blood clot or if I had an aneurism, which caused me to have the fall. They had two options: operate and remove the blood clot or use steroids to dissolve the blood clot. They opted for the latter, probably because it was less invasive.

I was moved from the observation room to a regular room. My mom stayed with me in Florida, and my dad went back to Chicago to tend to his business. He did come and visit frequently. Every morning, I woke up as I heard the distinct and comforting sound of my mom’s keys jingling as she walked down the hall. She stayed with me everyday.

The test the doctor’s had to run to see what was happening to my brain were not painful, but they took forever to complete. Today, a CAT scan can be over in minutes. With the computer power in 1978 a CAT scan could take hours. Every test took hours, and I had to hold my head perfectly still the entire time. In reality, this meant that, inevitably, I would move slightly, and the multi-hour test would have to be repeated. The good news was that the blood clot was shrinking.

Then, doctors had two misconceptions about my condition. First, they had very little knowledge about what the part of my brain that was affected actually did. They described it as the “silent part” of the brain. Second, the thinking at the time was that a head trauma could change the physiological structure of the brain but not the complex chemistry of the brain. Well, they were totally off the mark. Today, it is known that the right pre-frontal lobe has much to do with personality. In hindsight, I had immediate changes in my personality after the fall. Second, it is known that a severe head trauma can cause chemical changes in the brain. I was, for all intensive purposes, a different person once I had the blood clot. My brain structure had changed and my brain’s chemical makeup had changed. There were subtle differences in me. They were easily overlooked; However, I was different. At the time, Star Wars was all the rage. Like a good fifth grader, I had most of the Star War’s action figures and an ever-growing set of Matchbox and Hot Wheel cars. Prior to my head trauma, these toys were my primary forms of entertainment. After I had the blood clot, none of these toys made any sense to me. I didn’t know what to do with them. I remember having fun with them, but I couldn’t remember why. I never played with them again.

My time in the hospital went by pretty quickly. Finally…Success! After two months in the hospital the blood clot had dissolved. I was free to go back home to Northbrook. I looked different. I had a fat “moon face” from all of the steroids. All the kids in the neighborhood ran to my house when they heard I was back. One neighbor commented immediately that “that bump on the noggin’ has changed you.” I was upset by his comment, but it was very astute coming from another child. He was correct. I had changed. The problem was that I did not realize the changes right away nor did my parents.

My parents were being very overprotective of me. They didn’t want me to exert myself physically, and they had put the fear of G-d into me regarding any bump or tap to the head despite how minor it was. I couldn’t play baseball as long as the neighborhood kids because my parents did not want me to take over exert myself. I was at a birthday party where we all went bowling. My mom made certain that I bowled only one game. The other children were allowed to bowl three games. At the party, someone came up to me and hit me on the head with some rolled up papers. I began to scream, “Are you trying to kill me? Are you trying to kill me?” I was genuinely scared that my head would cave in at any moment. I know that I freaked out many of the kids because I got hysterical over a little tap on the head. To this day, people who know me well know not to touch or hit my head.

Sixth grade was around the corner. I had to go see the school district’s psychologist for some psychological evaluations before I could go into jr. high school. My I.Q. tested slightly higher than before the blood clot. The psychologist told my parents that I would be a “management problem” and that I should start seeing him regularly. To this day, we still don’t know what a “management problems” is. Did it mean that I would become unmanageable? Or did it mean my ability to manage would be compromised? I think he meant both. My parents thought that this psychologist was just trying to drum up business and that I was fine. That was a big mistake!

Sixth grade went well with one exception. I started to develop very extreme and regular headaches. But, my grades were good and my peer group hadn’t changed that much from fifth grade. Seventh and eighth grades were bona fide disasters. My headaches got worse. My group of friends changed for the worse. I smoked pot and got drunk for the first times in seventh grade and was known around the school as a stoner. By eighth grade, I used to get high almost everyday before school. I thought this was cool. At least people knew me. Obviously, they knew me for the wrong reasons but I thought I was super cool. I also started my first round of cigarette addiction. So, by eighth grade, I was smoking tobacco, and marijuana daily. (I think the marijuana might have helped my newfound headaches. Marijuana is an excellent headache abortive and should be legal for medicinal purposes. Nonetheless, I was too young to be using that as self-medication.)

Now my parents took me to a different psychologist. Naturally, I did not tell this doctor anything about my aberrant behavior. He knew that I smoked cigarettes. My parents figured that they started smoking about the same age that I had. Also, they’d prefer to have me smoke in the house rather than at the local mall for the whole world to see. I denied doing anything else when the psychologist enquired about my activities. That rouse went fine until one of my “friends” stabbed me in the back and told the school Principal that I had drugs on me. And I did. Ironically, he was the first person I smoked pot with. There’s no honor among thieves. The shit hit the fan. The Police came to the school to confiscate and process my stash. My parents came to school and beat the crap out of me in the Principal’s office. We went home, and I gave all my dope and paraphernalia to my parents. They told me that the Northbrook Police Department was coming over with a dog. This, of course, was a total fabrication. I had to go see the Juvenile Detective Officer at the Northbrook Police Department. (Years later, I would become friends with this Detective’s son. He was a party animal, and a total riot.) The Detective told me that if I ever did this again, I was off to a juvenile lockup. I kind of figured he was full of shit, but I knew it would be in my best interest not to get in any more trouble.

Jr. high school was a complete disaster. I did everything wrong, and it was an absolute embarrassment to my family and me. I cringe, today, when I run into people that only knew me in jr. high school. Plus, I did not develop the study skills that I would need to succeed in a highly competitively high school.

My changed behavior- from parents’ dream to parents’ nightmare- was due to the blood clot. I have no doubt that my personality changed radically after the blood clot. I was different. I wanted to be grown up, but I was just still a child. The old activities that I used to find amusing were no longer amusing to me. I was looking for something new. Unfortunately, that something new was pot. Doing drugs and making sure that the whole school knew what I was doing made me feel like an adult. I was impervious to the fact that the other kids saw my behavior as pathetic, many of my old friends deserted me and I was acting as if I wanted to get caught. I know my life events would have been different if I had not suffered from the head trauma. I should have been in counseling with the school psychologist from the first day of jr. high school. I was not. When I saw a psychologist, it was too late.

Worsening headaches plagued me. My pediatrician diagnosed me with migraine headaches in eighth grade and recommended a neurologist for me to go see. This started a lifelong battle with migraine headaches. I’ve had so many neurologists that I can’t name them all. Nothing really helped much, but I was definitely getting low- to mid-grade migraines with an occasional high-grade migraine during jr. high school. The headaches became worse during high school. They leveled off in college. Then the headaches became worse as an adult in the working world. To date, they have perpetually worsened over time.

For those that are blessed to be free from real and medically diagnosed migraine headaches, you should thank G-d. Migraines are not just a headache. Most people get headaches now-and-again. Usually, two Excedrin Extra Strength pills do the trick for most people. With migraine headaches, the over-the-counter medicines are a joke. Migraineurs (people who suffer from migraine headaches) who try to self-medicate themselves abuse over-the-counter painkillers that only make their headaches worse.

Today, my migraines are not great but they are better controlled. I have a little headache almost everyday and a major headache twice a week and a massive headache about every six months. Daily, I take 15 different pills just to prevent migraines from occurring. I have about five drugs to stop headaches in progress. When those don’t work, I go to the Emergency Room. If the headache lasts weeks, I end up being hospitalized. Migraines are devastating. They are far from normal headaches. At best, they are a curse. They can ruin careers, marriages, friendships and a migraineurs’ lives generally. Living in pain and fear of potential pain is no way to go through life. This is the reality for a migraineur. Migraine headaches are a leading reason for suicide in adults.

If your co-worker tells you that she or he has a migraine headache, show compassion. Migraine headaches, like diabetes, are invisible. You might not know that someone is a migraineur unless he or she tells you. The same goes with diabetes. But, they are both very real. Many people, especially in a work environment, get upset when a migraineur has to leave work early or misses work entirely because of a migraine headache. The outward signs of a migraine headache are subtle or nonexistent to the untrained eye. But, the migraineur is suffering in a way that one can only understand if one is a migraineur. Take his or her word for it- he or she feels as though he or she is on death’s door and you, as a non- migraineur, don’t have the faintest idea what hell this person is going through.
© Copyright 2008 Lorenr (lorensr1 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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