It seems logical that my first post after a month away from my blog should be an update. I am still unwell and undiagnosed (more about that later), and the trip to South Africa was difficult health-wise but otherwise very positive, and full of wonderful connections and exciting visions of the future.
I find myself unready to write much about the holiday yet; it is still largely unprocessed and I need to slowly think back over it more and make sense of all my conversations and reactions. The most positive overarching feelings, however, are simple ones – warmth and love for my and my husband’s families, and a deep comfortable feeling that home remains South Africa. I am now excited rather than terrified about moving back home this year.
My poor health has dominated the past 7 weeks, and I am frustrated by how it has taken over my conversations, thoughts, and even dreams. I got worse on the flight to South Africa, and a few days after arriving there a doctor diagnosed the cause of the migraine as severe sinusitis. After two weeks of antibiotics, with little improvement, she said I needed a sinus washout operation, which I couldn’t afford and my travel insurance wouldn’t cover. I also saw a physiotherapist who said it definitely wasn’t sinusitis, but thought the cause might be hormone imbalance, and told me that I have a condition called fibromyalgia. A wonderful chiropractor treated my very sore neck and back, and suggested that the headache might be what is known as a ‘spinal headache’, or intracranial hypotension, caused by a leak of fluid from the spine, which subsequently causes low pressure in the brain upon sitting or standing. This seems the best explanation for why it only hurts when I sit or stand, and feel better when I lie down.
On our return to England last weekend I went back to Lewisham hospital, full of hope that if they worked through these various theories systematically they would finally find the cause, only to be confronted with a useless doctor who didn’t listen to me, and simply prescribed a third course of antibiotics for sinusitis without so much as checking if I in fact still had sinusitis, plus two migraine medications, pizotifen and rizatriptan, which I had been prescribed whilst in hospital, with little effect . The latter she prescribed to be taken four times daily, but the pharmacist who filled the prescription said that it should under no circumstances be taken more than twice in 24 hours. Somewhat worrying!
One of my Canoe Polo team mates passed me the phone number of a fellow Canoe Polo player who is a neurosurgeon, and was kind enough to listen to my story today and confirm my belief that, as he said in an email tonight, ‘The postural component to the headache sounds convincingly like spontaneous intracranial hypotension (low-pressure headache)’. He has given me the confidence to try again tomorrow to get my doctor to refer me for testing. Watch this space!