Cluster headaches and book reviews

For many years my husband has suffered from really bad headaches. When we lived in New Hampshire they were diagnosed as sinus headaches even though decongestants didn’t really help, and certainly they seemed like particularly bad sinus headaches from many of the symptoms. When we moved to Maryland they went away for a few years; about a week or so ago they came back in full force.

Friday night one of them hit while we were out to dinner, and it was so bad we ended up taking him to the ER. His right eye was bloodshot and looked swollen, his hands were shaking, and he could barely stand upright. I’m still amazed he could drive, and speak coherently. Two hours later, while we were still in the waiting room, the symptoms disappeared just as quickly as they had come on.

As it turns out, that quick and sudden disappearance was the key that clued the ER doc in to what was probably going on. If he’d still been in as much pain when she saw him as when he’d arrived, he would have ended up getting a CAT scan looking for an abscess, or she might have thought he had meningitis. But the pain wouldn’t have just vanished. Instead, she read off the list of symptoms for cluster headaches, and they all fit perfectly. Every last one.

The huge relief is that this isn’t something critical that could result in disability or death, and frankly with the amount of pain he was in, that was a scary possibility. But the still-frightening part is that this is an incurable neurological disorder that is believed to cause “the most severe pain known to medical science.” Women have been known to say it’s worse than childbirth. It’s been compared to having a hot poker shoved in one’s eye, or having a limb amputated without anaesthetic. Cluster headaches have also been called “suicide headaches.”

Did I mention how amazed I am that he managed to drive, remain upright, and speak coherently while in that much pain?

We’ll be taking him to our regular doc tomorrow, who can hopefully give him an official diagnosis and some meds. This weekend he unfortunately had to miss some fun events since he had to stick close to the hospital—he’d been advised that if he had a repeat experience that was longer or more severe(!) he should go back and get that CAT scan.

Anyway. That was our Friday night. We were at the ER until about midnight. Thankfully I’d brought what turned out to be a really good book, Leslie Parrish’s Fade to Black. Speaking of which, here are the other books I’ve reviewed recently:

Paul Levine, Illegal
Fiona Patton, The Silver Lake
Keri Smith,
Wreck This Journal
Christine Feehan, Dark Curse
Dakota Cassidy, Kiss & Hell
Anton Strout, Deader Still
Rob Thurman, Deathwish
Elizabeth Vaughan, White Star

Vaughan’s book is the tenth in that “recommended reading” series, and Thurman’s book ended up being an unexpected book 11. I also adore Patton’s series, and Parrish’s book was fantastic!

Posted in Writing
3 comments on “Cluster headaches and book reviews
  1. melanie says:

    How wonderful is it to get a diagnosis – and to know nothing truly awful is going on! I’m glad for you and your husband.

  2. Alice Teh says:

    Sorry to hear about your husband’s headaches, but I’m happy that things are OK.

  3. heather says:

    Well he saw our regular doc today, but it only made things more confusing, not less. She can’t tell yet whether it’s sinus or cluster headaches. So next he gets a CT scan. Hopefully it’ll clear things up…

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