Sometimes medicine has no answers

Last week I had a migraine. My migraines have always been the kind that warns me, and I can take action to reduce them, but I can never stop them. I’ve had them all my life. None of the medications worked for very long; we have tried every single one thoroughly. Currently, I am waiting on botox treatments; I have been waiting a very long time (longer than I should have due to an administrative error on the NHS’s part – but that’s a whole other story).

Anyway, back to last week. On Monday, I woke up, and it felt like someone had whacked me on the head with a frying pan (what was later described to me as a thunderclap onset headache – a sign of a brain bleed – I didn’t know this); I had no prior warning signs either – unusual for my migraines. However, I did have the usual light sensitivity and adverse reaction to sound when wearing my hearing aids – so I just thought it was that – a migraine. Fast forward to Thursday – I am still just as ill as Monday with no improvement; I called my GP for help. They prescribed a hefty dose of aspirin and some tramadol for the pain. As I said in my last blog, I came off opioids as I can’t be cognitive to the level required to be a scientist with them, so I knew I would need to let uni know I am out of action. I felt like an utter failure.

That evening I tried to see how long I could look at a screen before the pain made me relent – that is when I wrote the last blog post. Turns out it’s 30 minutes I can handle.

Friday comes, no improvement – I still dragged my ass with sunglasses on to my psychology appointment – when I say I cannot remember what we talked about, I mean none of it. My mum and I went for our traditional post-psychology pick-me-up hot chocolate, and on the way home, I felt nauseous like I had never had. We had to pull over as the motion of the car was overwhelming. Once I felt ready, we got home, I stepped through the door, and projectile vomited everywhere. It was horrific. I cleaned up and then essentially passed out in bed. I slept through to the next day, missing D&D, which I never do.

Saturday, I couldn’t hack it anymore; I contacted NHS24. They took me through some questions, and their medical advisor said I needed to be poked by a doctor. We went to the out-of-hours doctor, and she asked me questions and beat up my reflexes with the tiny hammer. This was when I started to worry. She said she was concerned with some of the tests she had done and the symptoms, especially that thunderclap onset. She said she was hopeful that it was simply a migraine gone a bit wrong, but there was a chance of a brain bleed called a subarachnoid haemorrhage. So to the big hospital, I went – to the immediate assessment unit. I had a load of blood taken and tested for everything. They examined me and sent me for a CT scan. The radiographer kindly did a CT of my chest that was scheduled for outpatient attendance later in February, so that’s one less appointment!

Then we waited. The doctor came back with a result inconclusive if you have a bleed and it sorts itself out it can be hard to tell 6 days later so they wanted to check for both the presence of a slight bleed indetectable by CT and meningitis by doing a lumbar puncture the following day. More bloods were drawn, and fluids were given to e through IV. I tried to rest in the beepy bustle of the acute ward.

Sunday came, and it was lumbar puncture day; I had had this procedure once before and felt terrific afterwards for 2 days, so I hoped that the procedure alone may help my headache. The actual procedure was swift and painless, and the curled-up position was okay for me as a bendy noodle. The results take 24 hours.

My bloods returned later on Sunday, and they were very concerned about how high all my liver function tests were. They stopped 4 of my regular medications – paracetamol, etodolac, furosemide and erythromycin. So that meant I faced none of my usual pain relief, I was going to swell up as the furosemide is for pitting oedema in my legs, and I wouldn’t be able to eat as the erythromycin treats my gastroparesis. Basically, my stomach doesn’t digest food effectively, and the food sits there for ages instead which causes pain, nausea, and eventually vomiting when my stomach rejects the food. Great.

The following 3 days are a bit of a hazy, painful mess in my head. My legs got sore and swollen, and I was constantly tired. They gave me plenty of fluids to keep me going while I couldn’t eat and managed my pain in other ways.

The lumbar puncture came back clear for meningitis and blood, so nothing was currently amiss, so they recon it was a bleed that resolved itself, and I was still recovering from that. My liver results slowly returned to normal, and they reintroduced my meds. I started to tentatively eat again and eventually got discharged with strict instructions to rest for at least the rest of the week, longer if possible, as well as regular blood tests to check on my liver and make sure it doesn’t spike again. But they have no idea why my liver decided to flip its table and have a little tantrum. Sometimes even the best doctors don’t know.

So here I am; I still need sunglasses intermittently as the world is painfully bright, but the headache is almost gone; I will rest this weekend and try to return to normality next week. I have a hand-in for uni that was due while I was hospitalised, but my tutor kindly arranged an extension – it is my aim to write that and check in with my dissertation project tutor next week. I also have a job interview on the 17th! I am applying to be an NHS 24 health advisor, and I could not be more excited!

Hope you are all as well as possible ❤

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