This is the second half of this post. If you haven’t read Part 1, I suggest you take the time to do so.
After my enjoyable trip to the phlebotomist, we had almost two hours to burn until my next appointment, so we headed down Mayo Boulevard to The Container Store. Since you can’t exactly carry a closet organizing system on a plane, we mostly perused their small and/or clearance items… which turned out to be a lucky tactic. Dan needs a new wallet, and we were impressed by a Mighty Wallet one of Dan’s brothers gave another of his brothers for Christmas, so when we found a stash it was a logical purchase.
While Dan bought his wallet, which cutely totaled $4.09, I got a call from a Mayo scheduler with some less-than-exciting news. All the blood pressure cuffs used for the 24 hour monitoring Dr. A-Z ordered are booked until next Tuesday. So, I am here until at least next Wednesday, when they’ll remove the cuff. And Dan committed to return to work this Friday, so we still need to buy him a ticket to fly home Thursday night.
But, I am here to figure things out and get answers. There’s really no rush to get home if I’m still feeling awful. And, to be honest, I am always in need of a reminder to practice patience. Aren’t we all? So, although I feel a bit like I won the lottery (got to bring Dan with me) and then had to pay 50%+ taxes (send him back before I’m done), I’m counting my blessings. Namely the fact I get to stay with family while here in AZ.
As we discussed how we wanted to spend the hour+ until we needed to be to “the Clinic” in Scottsdale (read: almost Fountain Hills), I noticed the price tag on the back of the package for Dan’s wallet read something like $14.99. Recognizing the good deal and my envy of his purchase, I ran back into the store to purchase one for my mother, and one of a different style up for myself.
Head East (dad music reference intended)
Finally we got on the 101-S to head to Shea Boulevard, and then east to “the Clinic.” I’d been told by a scheduler that the two campuses were about ten minutes apart, but let me set the record straight… ain’t no way. Here‘s the proof.
View Larger Map
Google Maps says the drive is over 14 miles, or 25 minutes, and I believe them. But, if you’re from the valley or have been a Mayo Clinic patient, you know Shea seems to have stoplights every quarter mile. And, my appointment was during lunchtime, which created traffic that exacerbated the apparent length of the trip.
Let’s have a little fun and compare the Google Map with the Mayo-provided map. The distance from the 101 to B (or 1) sure looks lengthier in Google’s version. Do you agree?
Oh well. I suppose it was just another opportunity for me to practice my patience.
Which, in all seriousness, this appointment required very little of. Another patient had to cancel their appointment at the last minute, making room for lucky ol’ me to visit with a headache specialist less than two hours after Dr. A-Z put in the appointment request.
My Fifth Appointment
January 11, 2011 @ 12:40 pm
Mayo Clinic Building 3rd floor Check In
Robert L. Rogers PA
When we arrived, Dan dropped me off, made his way to the parking garage, up the elevator to the Concourse level, through the entrance and around to the other elevators, then up to the third floor waiting room, where he caught up with me.
I’d checked in at what looked remarkably like the teller counter of a bank and was stewing over a pair of surveys they’d asked me to complete regarding my headaches. Frankly, it felt a bit like the time my boss gave each member of our team a personality test. I had to keep reminding myself to not over think my answers, but go with my initial response… since that’s typically the most honest. Isn’t it?
After I finished the surveys, I totaled my scores (I kid you not. Just like in the teen magazine I subscribed to in the 90s.), and felt a bit relieved when the total indicated I do, in fact, deal with severe and often debilitating headache pain. Seriously, I’m afraid I actually felt validated by three pieces of paper on a clipboard with one of those annoying flat pens that has a curly cord with an end that sticks to stuff.
It’s pathetic, I know. But I’m Gen Y, so I need that sort of thing. Don’t I?
Continuing the honest phase, I suppose I should admit that by now I wasn’t loving being at “the Clinic.” It felt awkwardly arranged, I struggled to relax, and it seemed deafeninly loud and yet quiet enough for me to hear all the conversations being had at the check-in desks. And I was starving. We were starving.
I read some magazine I didn’t really want to touch because it felt grimey and Dan read This is Your Brain on Music. It’s a book I found for him that he absolutely adores. He’s shared quite a few fascinating tidbits with me and, if you’re into that sort of thing, I recommend you give it a read. You will surely be a better person for having done so.
Eventually, an almost intimidating nurse (I think) called us back, verified my birthday (??), rechecked my vitals (why?), and walked us to an office lit only by lamps. One on the desk and one on the bookshelf. A painted version of the collapsable bookshelf one of my college roommates had. It was pleasant, but it made me want to take a nap.
Meeting Mr. Rogers
Part college professor, part sensitive shrink, Mr. Rogers (I couldn’t resist) used big words and confusing explanations, but he seemed sincere. He too is a headache sufferer, so he understood much of what I described. Early in our conversation he divided my symptoms into three types of headaches.
- Typical Migraines – I’ve had these since college and get a few a month.
- Unknown #1 – pressure, quick onset, unpredictable length, front-left portion of head, debilitating, often accompanied by…
- Unknown #2 – stabbing, breathtaking, vision-blurring, typically short-lived
We set aside all talk of #1, as these are common and I certainly don’t need to pay Mayo Clinic to help me understand how to deal with them. Plus, the medicine I am on to raise my blood pressure does not play nice with anything other than acetaminophen, which does nothing to mitigate my migraines. So, basically, I just have to buck up, get sick, and head to bed. End of story.
Most of our time was spent discussing the second type of headache. Mr. Rogers said something quite like this:
I wanted you to come in here and say activity aggravates these headaches, and that light and sound make the pain worse, but you didn’t… So these aren’t migraine. Well, if they are, they’re completely atypical. Do you know what migraine is? The headache is only 30% of the phenomenon.
Somewhere in here his note taking with a fountain pen and the big words started making it hard to focus on what he had to say. I noticed a picture of a happy-looking dog and decided to ask if it was his. Althought it wasn’t, it got us talking about his dogs. And talking about his dogs got us talking about our dogs. And talking about dogs seemed to warm the conversation.
He still used lengthy medical words, but his explanations were understandable, and he went on to teach me some things that were completely new to my brain. Here are the highlights, in Kate-speak:
- Migraine begins at the back of your head, where your head meets your neck. The signals causing the pain travel at about 3-5mm a second, from neuron to neuron over your head toward the front of your brain.
- People who inherit migraines seem to have a lower tolerance for chaos, noise, crowds, etc. In his example he said folks like Dan, who don’t struggle with headaches live with the bit of their brain that sorts through and processes input dialed to a 2 when in normal situations. In stimulating situations their dial may have to go up to a 6 to handle the input.
Folks like Mr. Rogers and I, who get severe headaches, live at a 6. Our brain has to work harder to stay efficient and not become overstimulated. So, headaches happen when our brain jumps up to 9 or 10 to handle loads of input, and then struggles to dial back down to our own, screwed up “normal.”
- The occipital nerve can get pinched in tight muscles at the back of your head… causing horrible headaches, dizziness, and the strange tingling I often feel on the back half of my head. There are a few procedures available to reduce or eliminate this pain. Search for “occipital nerve block” if you want to learn more.
Although we haven’t done any other tests, so we can’t really know, Mr. Rogers feels the headaches I get that make almost forget who I am are related to the medicine I take to raise my blood pressure… midodrine. He spent some time researching recorded side effects, even calling coworkers to tap into their memory. Sadly, all coworkers were busy in their own appointments, but the gesture really impressed me.
In the end all we really did was talk. Once the rest of my appointments are complete we will meet again to discuss the findings and plan the next step. Although, to be honest, the whole nerve block injection thing is not sounding like it will eliminate the type of headaches I get 20+ days a month.
The rest of the day has been fairly chill. Dan and I stopped at In-N-Out Burger on the way back to his folks. We’ve spent the evening relaxing around my in-law’s house and closing tabs (including this and this), except for the quick trip we took to Pet Club to buy dog food. I wore my slippers. And I missed my puppies.
Do you have any experience with headache specialists? Any questions you think I should ask next time we meet? Did my Mighty Wallet make you jealous?
Wondering what I got on the personality test? It was the DISC and I was all “I” for Influencer. My subset was “The Communicator.” (Sounds like a dimly lit television show, doesn’t it?) What personality type are you?