Migraine with Aura and Without: Tony’s Tale

Tony, a man with migraines, describes his experiences with the debilitating condition:


When I did get a migraine, I couldn’t do anything. Lying in the dark, if I got uncomfortable, even turning over from one side to the other was an invitation for another onslaught. It was almost as if I could hear the rhythmic pulsing of the blood through my brain, like a squatter in my head was beating a Lambeg drum. It also felt as if I could physically feel the lump in the back of my head where the blood seemed to get blocked and struggle to get through. I don’t know if there’s any science to suggest this happens but it felt like that to me.


He didn’t usually have the aura, except on two occasions:


Once in 1987 and again in 1997 I had the ‘aura’. I didn’t realise this was a precursor to the head pain, a warning sign that would give me time to wallop down some pills, eat food, drink water and if possible lie in a dark room with ice on my head.

The first time I was at a Chelsea game at Stamford Bridge, having just moved to London and doing a bit of a tour of the city’s football grounds. My vision was disappearing, disappearing, disappearing until the only thing I could see was Pat Nevin preparing to take a corner. Trying not to panic, I thought if I concentrated on him I’d be alright and things would somehow get back to normal. Then, instinctively I tried to follow the flight of the ball. I came round sitting on the terracing with my head between my legs, apparently having keeled over. The Chelsea fans were as sympathetic as you’d expect!


The next time in 1997 I was in work and the words began disappearing off my computer screen. I was sent to the occupational health nurse. She suspected a migraine and sent me to my GP who agreed with her. Jokingly he said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t get on a flight.’ I had made plans to go to Brussels that night and as I’d only had the aura and not the subsequent pain, I weighed up the options and thought, what’s the worst that could happen?


However, Tony recently started having aura attacks without the headache:


I rarely get the pain now, but recently I’ve been going through a lot of aura attacks. It starts with noticing words missing on a screen or a page or, last week, one of the hockey players in the Olympics suddenly had only one leg. The area of blindness increases at pace, a semi-circle kaleidoscope of light fractals gradually obliterating your vision. When you talk to someone it’s as if half their face is missing, like Gus Fring in Breaking Bad.


Six months ago, I had six of these in five days. Luckily they were all at home so I could deal with them without any fuss. I have had about eight in the last ten days now, and three of them have come at work. This has meant taking 20 minutes to half an hour to go lie in the dark until the aura passes, combined with some strong medication, water, food.


Read the rest of Tony’s story at Migraine Trust.

Worried!” by photoloni is licensed under CC

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