Yesterday I had one of the worst migraines of my life.
Toward the end of my work day, the back of my neck started to hurt. Neck pain like that often means a migraine is on its way , but since my insurance company won’t pay for enough of my rescue medication, I was out of Imitrex. I thought the neck pain could just have been from the osteoarthritis in my neck, so I tried taking a painkiller for that. But as the pain spread to my head, I knew that it was definitely a migraine. I called my pharmacy on my way home to see if I could get an Imitrex refill, but my insurance won’t cover more until 12/30.
When I got home I had my husband give me an Imitrex shot. The shots are a last resort to try to abate a migraine already in progress, and they don’t always work for me. They are also extremely painful and leave me with a bruise that can last for weeks. The shot took the edge off of the pain, but I was still extremely nauseous. So I took a prescription anti-nausea pill and laid in bed with an ice pack on my neck while we waited for our delivery dinner to arrive. I hoped that I would feel better once I ate something.
Unfortunately, dinner didn’t help at all, and I was more nauseous than ever.I laid down with an icepack on my neck and one on my head, took a Xanax, and tried to relax to soothing ocean sounds. It wasn’t working. I was literally writhing in pain. I couldn’t find my roll-on Icy-Hot that sometimes helps sooth the pain when I put it on the back of my neck, so my husband ran down to the local CVS to get some more along with some ginger-ale for my nausea. But the pain and nausea just kept getting worse and worse, and I knew I needed professional intervention.
We called my neurologist’s office, and the message gave me my doctor’s pager number and told me to page him. So we did that, and I took a shower, switching the temperature from hot on my neck to cold on my head while we waited for my doctor to call back. Almost an hour later he still hadn’t, and the message had also said that if the doctor didn’t call back in 30 minutes we should call the on-call resident at the hospital. We left a message for the resident, and he actually called back in about 10 minutes. He prescribed what he called a very strong anti-inflammatory steroid that works well at stopping migraines in their tracks. Since it was almost 10:00 PM and our CVS was about to close, my husband searched for and found online a 24 hour Rite Aid near us, and we had the doctor call the medicine in there. I thought relief was finally in sight!
About 10 minutes later our home phone rang, and my heart sank. My husband told me that the pharmacy had actually closed at 10:00–it was only the store part that was open 24 hours. I didn’t know what to do. I was out of Imitrex shots, and the first one hadn’t helped much anyway. None of the other measures we had tried, including ice, relaxation, massage, aromatherapy, and hot and cold showers, had made the pain and nausea tolerable. I asked him to bring me some Excedrin Migraine and some popsicles. My neurologist had cautioned me in the past against Excedrin Migraine and other OTC painkillers since they can cause rebound headaches, but I didn’t know what else to do.
Desperately nauseous, I decided to try and get some relief by making myself throw-up. Kids, don’t try this at home; it is profoundly unpleasant. But it did ease the nausea just enough that I could stand it. My husband soon returned, and I took the Excedrin and ate some raspberry sorbet (why does no one sell popsicles!) and exhaustion finally claimed me around midnight. I had been suffering for eight hours.
This morning I woke up with pain and nausea, and although it’s less hellish than last night, I still want that cycle breaker! I know it could start to get worse at any moment. I wrote into work and checked my email, ate breakfast, and then started writing this post to kill time while I waited for the pharmacies to open at 8:00 AM. Since my husband had to go into the office today and I would have to go pick up the medicine myself, I wanted to have it transferred to my closer, usual pharmacy. They said that it would take at least an hour. At 8:30 AM, my CVS called me back to tell me that RiteAid had no prescriptions for me.
And now I can feel the stress hormones rising within me. My head is started to pound, and the pain is increasing. Now I have to go call my neurologist’s office and figure out what the hell happened and what they are going to do for me. I am so exhausted and want only to go back to sleep, but I fear waking up to a return of the intense pain and nausea. I just want medication that will make it all go away–the medication I was promised last night.
The person I spoke to at the neurologist’s office said that according to their records, the medicine was called in last night. She’s calling RiteAid to find out what happened. And I continue to wait–in pain, exhausted, angry, worried, and stressed out. My poor husband sits in his office feeling frustrated and helpless.
Part of why I started to write this, other than to kill time, was to illustrate just how terrible migraines can be. And I don’t mean just the pain and the nausea–I also mean the insane amounts of hoops we must jump through and the Kafkaesque level of insanity we must deal with just to get treatment. If my insurance company would cover enough pills for a real 30-day supply, I wouldn’t have been out of Imitrex in the first place. I would have popped a pill at my desk yesterday as soon as the neck pain started, and that probably would have been that. Migraine averted. But since they only give me 18 pills/month, and that’s double the amount they used to give me before my neurologist’s office fought to get me more, I run out before I can get them refilled every single month. And once a migraine is going full steam, it’s awfully difficult to stop. So instead of being able to stop the migraine and get on with my life, I lost an entire evening to writhing in severe pain and nausea. I’m missing yet another day of work. And the pain is getting worse from the stress of trying to deal with doctors and pharmacies that can’t seem to communicate with one another.
I just wish I could go back to sleep.