By Sarah Schroyer, MSN, RN, CHPN, NE-BC, CNE
Faculty, College of Nursing and Health Care Professions
I was excited to visit my aunt and uncle for their anniversary. It had been almost two months since my husband and I had been to see them and almost the whole family would be there. I ignored the fatigued feeling I had, as I knew I had stayed up late after working a long week. I opted not to walk the dogs with my husband; I was just a bit sore for some reason—probably slept funny.
We left for the hour drive, happily chatting about the rest of our weekend plans. After about 40 minutes, I suddenly felt dizzy even though I was sitting down. “Oh no, not now,” I groaned. My husband asked me if I had my emergency medicine. It was in the trunk, so I told him I would be fine until we got to our destination. Maybe it was a false alarm. It wasn’t. Within ten minutes, I had a stabbing pain radiating out behind my right eye so bad that I could no longer see out of it. I could feel the loud noises around me. Once we got to my aunt’s home, I took my rescue medicine and hoped I had not waited too long. If you wait too long to take triptans, they often are not effective in fighting migraine pain.
Unfortunately, this was not a new situation for me and it likely is quite familiar to anyone who suffers from migraines—especially chronic migraines. I was a successful Director of Professional Services (similar to Director of Nursing) at a home-based hospice company when I was diagnosed with chronic migraines. I have experienced migraines since my early teens, but only once every few months or so. In December of 2013, I left work early with a disabling migraine, and it did not go away for 16 days.
It is estimated that migraine affects over 37 million men, women and children in the United States and the World Health Organization lists the disease as one of the ten most disabling medical illnesses on earth (American Migraine Foundation [AMF], 2019). Chronic migraine is defined as experiencing 15 or more migraine days per month and occurs in about two percent of the population (AMF, 2019).
For a while after my diagnosis, I was scared that I would not be able to return to work as a nurse —specifically in a leadership capacity. I worried that I would not be able to finish my MSN program. Migraines inhibit your cognitive abilities as well as triggering pain. I was worried that I would remain in constant fear of leaving the house, afraid that the pain would return at any minute. Thanks to new research and developments, I have not had to worry. New medications have helped me lower my migraine days to two to three per month. I have finished my MSN and am working on my doctorate, both while working full-time. My husband and I are traveling again, and we make sure to have emergency meds in the car—just in case.
Why am I telling you all this? This month is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month. It is time to raise disease awareness, advocate for and with patients, and impact public knowledge on an often misunderstood disability. You can find great information and resources at the following websites:
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- American Migraine Foundation. (2019). Migraine Facts. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/facts-about-migraine/