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My 'stroke' nightmare was a rare migraine... Mail journalist EMMA MCKINNEY is used to reporting on emergencies - but found herself at the centre of one when a terrible migraine left her fearing she had suffered a stroke.


IT was just an ordinary Friday.

I had been busy covering a court case and was heading back to the office when I had the first hint of what was to turn into one of the most terrifying days of my life.

Having suffered migraines since the age of 13, it was no surprise when I started to get 'blind spots' in my vision - one of the first tell-tale signs of an attack.

I jumped in a cab home, took my prescribed medication, and expected that - as normal - a few hours in a darkened room would have me back to normal.

But within minutes of arriving home, panic set in when I lost all feeling down the right-hand side of my body and my speech became slurred.

Scared senseless, I called 999 and was whisked to the accident and emergency department at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

There, I was quickly given a brain scan and treated for a suspected stroke.

It's a cliche, but my life did flash before my eyes. It was impossible not to fear the worst. I couldn't believe I could be suffering from a life-threatening condition at the age of just 34.

My thoughts turned to my husband and my three-yearold daughter.

Tears welled in my eyes as I imagined being left disabled or - God forbid - not living to see her grow up, get married, or have children of her own.

After what felt like an eternity, my scan results came back - and mercifully, the news was good.

I could have kissed the consultant when he told me I had not had a stroke, but instead suffered something called a hemiplegic migraine.

An estimated 20 per cent of women and ten per cent of men in Britain experience migraine, with more than a third suffering an 'aura' warning symptoms that happen 15 minutes before an attack and commonly include slight speech or visual disturbances. For those affected by hemiplegic migraines an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people the aura takes the form of a stroke-like paralysis down one side of the body.

It can last from a few minutes to several months, though in most cases, as in mine, it clears in a few days.

They can strike without warning in anyone who, like me, has suffered regular migraines.

One possible trigger is hormonal changes linked to the menstrual cycle, pregnancy or the menopause.

I'm now being closely monitored by my GP and I have been given a different prescription drug to take if it happens again, which I am told is likely.

I've also been told to avoid triggers, such as too much stress, loud noise, certain smells and too little or too much sleep.

Preventative drugs, such as beta-blockers, may be considered if they become a regular occurrence.

Before that fateful day I had never heard of hemiplegic migraines, but I thank my lucky stars it was not as serious as first thought.

Stars who suffer attacks THE list of celebrity migraine sufferers reads like a who's who of the showbiz world - including the King himself, Elvis Presley.

It also features actors Ben Affleck, Hugh Jackman, Whoopi Goldberg, model Elle Macpherson and singers Carly Simon and Janet Jackson.

In sport, former Arsenal star Freddie Ljungberg was carried from the pitch with a migraine after his American team, the Seattle Sounders, played Everton in a pre-season friendly in July, 2009.

And politicians who lived with migraines included former US presidents John F Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln.

A spokesman for The Migraine Trust charity said: "A person with hemiplegic migraine will experience a temporary weakness on one side of their body as part of their migraine attack.

"This can involve the face, arm or leg and be accompanied by numbness, or pins and needles. If the right side is affected the person may experience speech difficulties, vision problems or confusion.

"This can be a frightening experience for the individual as these symptoms are similar to those of a stroke.

"This weakness may last from one hour to several days.

"The head pain associated with migraine typically follows the weakness, but the headache may precede it or be absent."

For more information visit or call 020 7631 6970.


Attack: Elvis Presley, Whoopi Goldberg and Hugh Jackman. Below Elle Macpherson.

Most terrifying day of my life: Mail reporter Emma McKinney.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Dec 15, 2012
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