See this little guy?
Well, he saved me from turning into the dreaded Mean Mom. You see, for quite awhile now — maybe a month? Maybe two? I’ve been sick more and more frequently with migraine after migraine, till there was no real space between the end of one and the beginning of the next. I wasn’t the greatest mom during that time. I’m pretty sure Niko spent more than the maximum recommended two hours per day watching (usually) educational TV or playing (mostly) skill-building games on the iPad. He came to expect to spend large chunks of time inside, in front of a screen, because both the bright light of the hot summer sun and the movement necessary to keep up with both kids outside caused more pain, nausea, and dizziness than I could handle.
The migraines came to a climax three Fridays ago — on Aaron’s birthday, no less — with a trip to the emergency room, my very first. If it hadn’t been so terrifying, it would have been great fun, being wheeled around and zipped down hallways and buzzed through a CT machine. At that point I wasn’t in pain, but I also couldn’t speak, had little strength or dexterity in my right hand, couldn’t write cursive or my usual script/print hybrid, could hardly move my right leg, and couldn’t remember how to navigate steps. My face felt like I’d just visited the dentist, numb and tingly.
I communicated by writing on a notepad at first, taking long seconds to form each letter, sometimes agonizing in an attempt to remember the correct shape. (The nurse in charge of me, who hit an excellent balance between compassion and good humor, complimented me on taking the time to add the apostrophe to “can’t” despite it’s adding at least a full second to the time it took to write the word.)
Later I got my phone and used my Notes application to type, which was much faster despite my continuing clumsiness.
It wasn’t a stroke. It was a hemiplegic migraine. They’re rare and debilitating. And scary.
I got my speech back about four hours after I lost it. By that time I could walk on my own, very very very slowly, and could even, with great triumph, navigate two steps: one up and one down on a step stool. The doctor reluctantly let us go home, since all the tests demonstrated I really was okay.
I didn’t lose my speech again, and I never got that weak again, but for the next week and a half I had some symptoms every day: tingling and numbness, weakness, difficulty walking. A few times I got a small stroller from the garage to use as a walker just so I could get around at a reasonable pace. I had trouble with forgetting words. Sometimes I couldn’t understand when people spoke to me — I knew they must be speaking English, just as clearly as they had been moments before, but I was as bewildered as if they’d broken out in ancient Aramaic. I continued having difficulty writing, especially struggling to manage my signature. I occasionally had trouble getting food into my mouth, and once I got it there, I sometimes couldn’t remember how to use my lips, tongue, and jaw together to get it off the fork and chew. Every day I was tired, so tired. And then there were the typical migraine symptoms: dizziness, vertigo, nausea, light/motion/noise sensitivity, periodic intense neck and jaw and head pain.
Oh yes, I was a mess. For the most part, I managed. I had migraine pain most days, but usually only for a few hours; the seemingly endless symptoms I listed above were intermittent and only happened a few at a time. Generally I was just slow and dull, unable to do a whole lot beyond cuddle the kids and provide basic care. Niko, who is not yet five, didn’t really get that I was sick. Mostly, he just understood at first that he was watching more TV than usual. Then he came to expect to have the TV or iPad several times a day.
Last Wednesday, four days ago now, we saw a neurologist to follow up on the ER visit. He prescribed a daily preventative medicine and a new, safer abortive (migraine-stopping) medicine.
I’m delighted to say that the preventative medicine is working. I did have one migraine the day after starting it — but it had a distinct starting and ending point. I’ve felt entirely normal since. And poor Niko has been comparatively bereft of screen time. He’s been forced to play with toys, run in the yard, help pick vegetables, draw pictures.
This morning, after breakfast, I was working on processing some of the zillions of zucchini we’ve harvested. I noted that the day appeared pleasantly sunny. I paused to put Sofie on the potty and lay her down for a nap. Then, with Sofie safely out of the way, I called Niko. “Go play on the porch for awhile.”
“Noooo! I want to watch Dinosaur Train!”
“No,” I said firmly. “It’s a good day for being outside. It’s sunny and not too hot. Come on, I’ll get you some bubbles.”
My TV-deprived son flopped on the floor and continued to whine while I headed out to the porch to get the bubble mix out of the toy box on the porch.
That’s when I saw this little guy, a small green savior in need of rescue. His skin a shade too dry, his body chillier than was comfortable here on the shady porch, he awaited a helping hand. “Niko!” I called. “Come look!” He rushed out, excited to see whatever mystery I was advertising. The frog brought complete satisfaction. I let Niko be in charge of delivering him to the pond, where he wasted no time frog-kicking his way to a safe hiding place on the far side of the water.
Yes, that little green peeper rescued me today. Having put the frog back into the pond, my son was more than happy to stay outside in the fresh air, blowing bubbles, hanging from the tree, and drawing with chalk. Thanks to a thumb-sized amphibian, I didn’t have to put my foot down and be Mean Mom just to get my screen-habituated son some fresh air. Thank you, green frog.