Monday, September 10, 2012


The night before last I had yet another bout of insomnia and slept about 4 hours, went to church and then drove to Philly.  I remember being awake for a couple of short stretches during the night last night also.  So I loaded up heavily on coffee for the drive home and handily set myself up for this:

We left the hospital a bit late, near eleven, and aimed to stop for lunch around one.  We were about 45 minutes into the drive when I noticed that the car in front of me was missing its left tail light.  Missing - not just a blown bulb, but the entire red glass.  As I continued to evaluate the situation, the left half of the trunk hood vanished, along with the rear wheel, leaving the car apparently running smoothly on three tires with the driver's rear neatly floating above the pavement.

Migraine auras are fascinating.  Even when you know that the outcome is not going to be pretty, realizing that your brain is simply rearranging visible reality is like watching an evolving episode in a good sci-fi show.  The blue police box never shows up in MY neighborhood, but hey, you never know.

Keep in mind that I am driving at 70 mph on a limited access highway.  To add to the insanity, I am in a construction zone with infrequent emergency pull-offs, and I can't read signs anymore anyway.  I have Babygirl pull out 3 Advil, swallow them dry and hope for the best.  Twenty minutes later, right on schedule, my left eyeball started to feel like it was going to explode and ooze down my aching cheekbone.  I asked Babygirl to unwrap a summatriptan tablet (since migraine meds are ALL packaged in such a way that NO ONE with an actual migraine-in-progress could ever open one) and swallowed that as well.

Twenty minutes later still the summatriptan side effects kicked in - tight jaw, painful swallowing, tight chest - all without the intended benefit of taking away the damned migraine. Add to this the almost overwhelming desire to simply close my eyes and drift off to sleep....

Why in HELL, you might politely ask, did I not pull over and call 911, or at the very least exit at the first possible moment and hie myself to a hospital?

I've never had a hangover, and never had so much to drink that I was still drunk while I had one, but I imagine that that MIGHT be as close as anyone could come to the interior experience of a really whopping migraine.  In my opinion migraines don't hurt so bad, really - it's no worse than a bit of repetitive hammering to the temple. With an actual ballpeen hammer.  It's the mental confusion that takes over, frequently long before the migraine pain becomes the primary problem.  The lack of blood flow that starts the process makes me incredibly stupid, and I seem never to remember that fact until I look back with some degree of objective horror at what I was doing at the time.

Five miles before our intended lunch location I did pull over.  PA turnpike toll booths all have public restrooms (did you know that?  It's an awesome feature.).  I was having enough nausea (very unusual for my migraine type) that I decided to pull over and check out the bathroom.  I came out, and Babygirl went in.  By the time she came back to the car, I was asleep.  Smart child - she let me.  I woke up about 15 minutes later, and drove the remaining five miles to 'our' restaurant.

I ate a little, and when we went out to the car, I slept a little more before getting back on the highway.  I foolishly lost an internal debate about whether to report to a local hospital or keep going.  Entirely by the grace of God, we made it home a little over an hour later without incurring any disaster.  I immediately went to bed, slept two hours, and now I'm fine.

Fine, not counting the sickening sensation of awakening to the absolutely appalling risk I took of driving so impaired.  Retrospectively the risk is obvious, but while it's happening it all seems perfectly sensible to soldier on and head for home.  Maybe that's why so many people actually drive while drunk - maybe it just doesn't seem like such a bad idea at the time.  And for the life of me I can't figure out a way to keep it from happening. 

Thank God that migraines of this magnitude are rare for me.  It's almost hard to remember that I lived with this level of altered consciousness for nearly a full month two years ago.



  1. That was a tough decision. You are needed in many places so I can see why you kept going. Stay safe.

    1. It was, actually, a NONdecision. If I had been able to think coherently, I would have at the very least rented a motel room and slept it off!