“Lying here in the darkness
I hear the sirens wail
Somebody going to emergency
Somebody’s going to jail
If you find somebody to love in this world
You better hang on tooth and nail
The wolf is always at the door.”
The Eagles / Don Henley
In a New York Minute
Yet another stark reminder of the fragility of life came pounding on my door recently, during the week my mother-in-law passed on.
It began gradually as a dull ache at the back of my neck and behind the eyes. Within a few days the pain and pressure increased and spread to my temples. This was no ordinary headache.
I have had tension headaches before. The kind that begin as stress in the muscles of the neck and morph to the head, then dissipate within a few hours after a couple of pain-killers. But this one was vastly different, relentless and unresponsive to the usual over-the-counter pain medications.
Five days of this slow torture finally convinced me (some say I have a stubborn streak) to seek medical attention at a local walk-in clinic on a Sunday morning. The doctor on duty examined me and proclaimed that I did not appear to be the ‘kind of person who normally gets headaches’ so he prescribed some pain-killers with codeine and would schedule a CT scan for me.
The medication finally provided some relief by dulling the pain and pressure, though the side-effects (drowsiness & nausea) also confined me to my bed. Not long after downing a couple of pills, I could relate to the old analogy of ‘hitting myself over the head with a hammer’, it really did feel so good when I stopped.
Then, on Monday evening, without medication, miraculously and mercifully, the pain and pressure stopped. My head was still sore and woozy from 6 days of constant aching but the crushing veil of pain and fog had finally lifted.
The next day I began to feel like my old self, but on Wednesday morning the pressure and pain returned. Given my family history (my father died at 50 of an giant cerebral aneurysm and my uncle Ralph had a brain tumor) panic began to set in.
I asked my wife to take me to the ER at St. Mary’s General Hospital where I was given morphine to dull the pain and knock down my blood pressure (195/105) and underwent a 12 hour whirlwind of medical tests (CT scan, blood/urine analysis, lumbar puncture) all of which were normal and have (thank God) eliminated the most serious causes (brain aneurysm / tumor, meningitis) of my symptoms.
A comprehensive assessment by the optometrist also eliminated vision issues (e.g. glaucoma) as potential causes of my week long headache. Which leaves the very real possibility that I may have suffered my first-ever migraine. My late mother and one of my sisters suffered / suffer from migraines.
A day after being released from the ER – my BP returned to normal (120/80) and I had my life back. I was soon celebrating life with my wife’s family at the annual Sieber reunion, attending my niece’s wedding and resuming three of my favorite summer pastimes: reading, writing and chasing a golf ball into a little hole.
Thank you Lord once again, for reminding me that life can indeed change in a heartbeat, for finding me someone to love, for giving me another chance to appreciate the eternal beauty of your creation and for keeping the wolf behind the door.
Photo Credit: Patti Jones