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My Terrifying First Encounter With Hemiplegic Migraines

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You would think since the word “hemiplegic” is the first name of my migraines it wouldn’t be the aspect of my illness that surprised me the most, but it is. Hemi-what?

Hemiplegia came into my life like a wrecking ball, leaving confusion and chaos in its wake.

My first hemiplegic migraine was one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve ever had. I’d never even heard the word “hemiplegic” before, so when the left side of my body suddenly began to go limp, I had no clue what was happening. First went my left foot and leg; it felt like pins and needles, but then I realized nothing happened when my brain sent the signal for my foot to move. Then went my hand, arm, neck and eventually my face. My mouth drooped a little to one side and it was impossible to lift my head. I didn’t understand. I was having trouble speaking. My tongue felt thick and heavy in my mouth. My mom was concerned I was having a stroke so she decided we needed to make the trip to the hospital. A friend helped us get to the car. They half carried me, half walked me, moving my foot for me because I wasn’t able to take steps by myself. My head bobbed against my chest.

By the time we got to the hospital the hemiplegia had progressed to the point where I couldn’t swallow my own spit because the left side of my throat was so weak. The nurse had to suction me so I wouldn’t choke. What was happening to me?

After I had scans of my head, they concluded I did not have a stroke, so they got my pain under control and sent us home. During the following weeks I had several more episodes like this. I got in to see a new neurologist and was finally diagnosed with hemiplegic migraines. I’d had plenty of migraines before, but never hemiplegic ones. These were a whole new ballgame. Migraines with hemiplegia took me off guard. It was shocking when I couldn’t lift my arm, open my fingers or wiggle my toes.

To this day I have lasting effects of these migraines. I get them frequently, and I have to wear a brace on my left foot called an AFO to keep my foot from dragging when I walk. It prevents me from tripping because I still can’t lift my foot up on my own due to hemiplegia. I used a wheelchair for months due to it. It’s honestly crazy to think about. Hemiplegia has stolen a lot from me, but it’s also taught me a lot about patience, strength, courage and perseverance. I’m thankful for that.

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Originally published: October 28, 2016
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