How I Spent The Last Week of the Year in the Emergency Room — Dealing with Chronic migraine

Most people think a migraine is just a normal headache. If you mention that you have a migraine, they think “oh it’s not that bad.” If only they knew. Sadly, migraines are really bad. Depending on its intensity, it can cause a temporary lack of sight, uncontrollable tears, nausea, inability to speak and a constant pain on one side of your head. It’s not the type of headache that an ibuprofen or sleep can cure. Chronic migraine is actually classified as a disability as it incapacitates you.

Migraines can go on for days and I had one go on for seven weeks while I was a sophomore in college. I was admitted about 4 times a week for the seven weeks. Luckily, as a Berea College student, you have little cost in your hospital bill when you go to the school clinic. The only times I had to pay huge amounts were the three times I was taken to the ER, one of which I had passed out.

This year, I was fortunate not to have any extreme episodes, and the migraine headaches I had experienced before now were not as painful. Maybe a 2/10 for the level of pain. However, imagine my surprise waking up on the 29th of December with a pain that escalated from 2/10 to a 10/10 in a matter of minutes. I went from “oh let me get some sleep” to “I am going to die from this pain” and thinking about my family. This was not the pain I could brave through, and I knew I had to do something. It started two days before, but knowing the pain intensity I decided to brave through it. However, by 2am on the morning of the second day, I was screaming at the top of my lungs from the intensity of the pain. Around 3am, the pain subsided and I went back to bed.

However by 9am the next day, it was back and worse than ever. By 9:00 I called an Uber and by 9:10 it had arrived to take me to the hospital. I couldn’t call an ambulance because of the outrageous costs. When we arrived, my speech was almost incoherent as it hurt to speak and I had a hard time talking and walking. I had gone to the closest hospital to me, but at the front desk they informed me that they couldn’t attend to me as it was a family hospital. To say I was shocked is an understatement. Here I was in obvious pain, unable to perform normal duties as an adult and you informed me that I would not be treated by you? I summoned some strength and called another Uber to take me to another hospital which was public.

On arriving there, I went in through the surgery area and I was shocked at the number of people bandaged up. There were about 3 cops there and it seemed like there was a crash. A man had his head bandaged up and could barely speak while the other had his leg up in the air. As bad as my condition was, I was genuinely scared for these individuals. Just then, there was a message which went “stroke alert on floor one. All medical personnel to floor one.” You know how in the movies you see nurses and doctors running down the hall to save a life? That’s how it seemed.

Since I was in the wrong section, a nice worker took me to the ER section where my identity was taken, and then came the wait. The ER had about 30 people I could count, with one symptom or another. People coughing, sneezing and crying.

I arrived at this hospital between 9:30 and 9:45 and the first time I was attended to by a nurse was around 10:30. They took my blood pressure, temperature, weight, height, reason for coming and then sent me back to the waiting room. At this time thankfully my pain had gone from a 10/10 to about 7/10. I was still in pain but not as excruciating as it was in the morning. At about 10:45, I was called in again this time by a doctor to get treated.

I told her I suffered from chronic migraines but wanted to be placed on a different medication. Prior to this, I had been prescribed Amitriptyline and Sumatriptan, but they were high in dosage and caused me to have chest pain whenever I took them.

The doctor listened and decided to give me an IV of about 4 medications together. Basically a cocktail of medicines. Next came the problem of finding a vein. Since I started going to the hospital, it was always hard for the medical personnel to find a vein in my hand. About 3 years ago, I got poked in probably 4–6 different spots when I had an episode and the ambulance was called. I was poked in the palmar aponeurosis of my two hands three times each (the top of the palm) and the also on the bicipital aponeurosis (the dip behind your elbow) 3 times before a vein was found.

I did not want to go through that again, so I asked if I could have oral instead of an IV. This was already after being poked twice without a vein found. The doctor agreed, but it took about another hour to get my medications to me. Later, I was given the medications finally. This was around 12:15 and I was told to wait for sometime to have a doctor discharge me. TGC lovers, so began my waiting period. I waited till 2 pm as others who were treated at similar times with me spoke to a doctor and got discharged, but my name was never called.

I asked at the front desk and she gave me a generic response of “the doctor is busy and will be here as soon as possible.” I waited again till 3:30 pm and spoke to the doctor who treated me. She informed me that was discharging me soon and my name would be called in a few minutes. Of course that was more false promises. I was exhausted, hungry (I had not eaten) and sleepy (my medications cause drowsiness). I waited again till I fell asleep. I woke up by 5pm and my name still was not called (In their defense, they might have called me when I was asleep).

Everyone who was hospitalized at the same time as I was had gone home. I was upset, and walked past the front desk almost into one of the rooms. Fortunately a new doctor was there and I informed her I had been waiting for almost 6 hours to get discharged. She apologized, and told me she would go ahead and discharge me instead of the doctor I had seen. In about 15 minutes, she kept her promise and discharged me. And this was how I spent my day in the hospital in pain.

As a result of the experience I received at the hospital which was a stark contrast to my experiences in my previous state, I will not be returning. The pain had gone down from 10/10 to about 6 and kept going down before I even received the medications. I wondered if they would have been this nonchalant if I was screaming as I was in my house at night. They probably would have, as a lady who arrived and was crying and shouting was treated in the same manner. It was disappointing to see, because these were human lives. It seemed everyone was a number to them. In addition, the nurse who had tried to give me an IV said “I better get your vein this time because I have 60 other people to go through.” It made me feel like garbage who could get tossed out at any point. I am taking precautions that this does not happen again. I am currently calling providers in my insurance plan so I could get a doctor. So while most people were having an amazing cross over into the new year, I was in the hospital fighting for my life.

Luckily, I pulled through since I am here sharing my story.

Do you suffer from migraines or have had similar experience with one? Let me know how you deal with it in the comments.

Note: Are you interested in studying in the United States, or are you an incoming freshman in a US college? Do you love stories on financial growth or fiction? Be sure to check out my Instagram, YouTube and website where I document my experiences.

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JustNenye

Online Journal about my life and experiences as an immigrant in the US + Fictional stories + random thoughts