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The Symptoms You Need to Know Are Possible With Migraines

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We stop in the middle of the parking lot. I open the door only to crumble out of the car onto the asphalt below. There I lay, on the pavement outside the emergency room. I am no longer able to move my left arm or left leg.

I have no idea what is happening to me as they roll me into the ER. I sense my wife as I go past, but I do not recognize her.

I end up on an examination table. A nurse or a doctor is looking me over. He asks me my name. I know my name: I say “J-A-S-O-N.” Nothing comes out of my mouth. I am not sure if my jaw moves. He asks me again. Again my brain answers but my body is unable to follow my brains command.

“What is happening to me?” I ask myself.

With my right hand, I reach across to my left thigh and pull out my wallet and hand it to the man. “This is who I am,” I jest to him and to myself.

I cannot speak, move my left arm or my left leg. I can’t seem to feel anything anymore. I am scared and confused.

Earlier in the morning, I experience an aura, a complete array of kaleidoscopes and prisms for 40 minutes. When that ends it sets off a lacerating explosion inside my head, like a smashed pane of glass. I felt shattered shards of glass flying in all directions inside my head. Now it was gone. Which is odd, my migraines don’t usually end for days or weeks on end.

Now they’re putting me in a tube. It only lasts a few moments, or so it seems.

My eyes open. I am in a hospital room. My vision is functioning, which is a step above the ocular migraine I had earlier in the morning, before the aura. The same one I’ve been experiencing almost every morning for the last several months leading up to this day.

My wife and baby are in the room. They look familiar again. As they drove me to the hospital a few hours earlier they became strangers. I sensed their familiarity, but lost touch with any connection to them on the ride to the hospital.

A doctor examines me asking me simple questions: the day, the month, 1+1, spell bus. I still cannot speak.

I rest.

More family arrives.

The doctor returns sometime later. I am able to speak a bit now. I am showing signs of improvement!

The hospital admitted me for stroke.

My experience and diagnosis: a hemiplegic migraine.

I’d never heard of a hemiplegic migraine before that fateful day. I was quite surprised to hear a migraine could lead to full paralysis of the left side of my body and mimic a stroke.

I was released from the hospital eight hours after I arrived. I went back to work 1 week later determined to get well. It took six months to recover, which I continued to experience the unexpected. Severe weakness throughout my entire body, I was rocked to my core. Tremors in my left hand like Muhammad Ali (I still have them from time to time). My memory has never been the same. I was only 35 years old at the time and in excellent physical condition. I’d never heard of anyone experiencing any migraine like this before. My doctors never warned me.

I am brought to tears every time I write about this event, recalling this painful memory. I came so close to losing everything. In the days, weeks and months following I met with doctors and specialists of every kind, testing for every possible abnormality and link that goes beyond my migraine condition. I received the same response from every single one of them, “You just have headaches.”

And that is all they will ever tell you as you ascend up the ladder of the migraine spectrum. No one will warn you of the possibility that you can lose your vision. That aura exists, or what a hemiplegic migraine is, or any of the other hundreds of migraine symptoms possible.

For the life of a migraineur, there is a surprise around every corner. To minimize the surprises, it is incumbent upon the migraineur to self-educate and understand what is possible. So that if or when you do start to experience the unexpected, you will be ready.

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Follow this journey on Through Migraine.

Originally published: February 21, 2018
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