Wales Online Article all about me, migraines and art
Wales Online Article for Migraine Awareness Week
It was great to be interviewed by Wales Online as part of migraine awareness week. I’m so grateful that they took the time to raise the profile of migraine. The full article can be found here
This woman suffers such bad migraines she has similar symptoms to a stroke
Fran Kelly wants people to know that a migraine is not just a bad headache and that symptoms can vary from person to person
Fran Kelly suffers from migraines
When Fran Kelly went to A&E after suffering paralysis, intense pain and major speech problems, she said she was given paracetamol and sent home and told “this is an emergency department.”
But that is the reality of living with a condition which presents symptoms such as loss of vision, complete numbness down one side and slurred speech – but has a name so common that some sufferers find it is not taken seriously enough.
Fran, who is from Bridgend , suffers with a type of migraine called hemiplegic migraines and these are the symptoms she must deal with when she has an attack.
When she was taken to hospital she said she had been experiencing symptoms and “intense pain” for nearly two weeks with no improvement.
She said: “I was told by the triage nurse ‘It’s just a migraine, take some paracetamol and go home, this is an emergency department’.
“Thankfully there are some great medical staff out there but still, their hands are tied, there’s not enough money going into research to develop specific migraine drugs let alone a cure and we need advancement and fast.”
How hemiplegic migraines affect sufferers
Migraine Action explains that hemiplegic migraines are rare and have been linked to a genetic abnormality.
Symptoms include temporary weakness down one side of the body, which can last between five minutes and a day, although it can persist for several days.
Other symptoms include sensory disturbance including tingling or numbness, visual symptoms including flickering lights, spots, lines or loss of vision and speech disturbance.
The support and advisory charity Migraine Action explains: “This form of migraine may be confused with a stroke, but the effects are usually fully reversible and there are specific treatments available.
“Strokes usually come on suddenly whereas hemiplegic migraine attacks will often start slowly with one symptom and progress to other symptoms spreading over many minutes or hours.”
Fran, 24, said that getting a diagnosis was a relief but she had mixed feelings about it.
She explained: “For me it was a relief to know what I was experiencing wasn’t a result of a tumour or anything immediately life threatening.
“But once the relief subsided I began to realise that the outlook for migraine suffers is bleak. I knew the cause of migraine was still unknown, that money was limited for research and a cure was nowhere in sight.”
Fran is speaking out as part of Migraine Awareness Week, which takes place from September 4 to 10.
Not just a bad headache
She wants people to know that a migraine is not just a bad headache and that symptoms can vary from person to person.
“Migraine is better described as a sensory disorder and some people don’t suffer head pain at all,” she explains, although she adds that she experiences daily head pain.
“For me, it’s like my brain sends too many sensory messages. My senses become completely jumbled, food tastes and smells rotten, the clothes I’m wearing feel like they’re full of thousands of needles, I become unable to speak, the words getting jumbled in my head and English seems like a foreign language to me.”
Fran says “it’s time that attitudes changed” and suggests ways in which employers can help sufferers.
“Despite one in seven people in the UK suffering with migraine the condition is still poorly understood by employers, friends, family and even the medical profession themselves.
“For me, it would be great to see employers and their workforce take ‘sensitivity workshops’ if they have an employee who suffers with migraines.
“Migraine symptoms can vary from person to person and it’s important to have conversations and keep talking about it and to find out that person’s needs.
“Migraine is a neurological condition just like epilepsy or Parkinson’s and it’s time attitudes changed.
“I believe by raising awareness of migraine we can start to change the way it is viewed.”
Raising awareness through art
She said she became motivated to raise awareness of migraine through her art when after feeling that the current methods of communicating the effects of migraine weren’t working.
Fran will soon finish a Masters degree in Art, Health and Wellbeing and says she wants to continue to create art to change perceptions of migraines. She has an exhibition in the Kidwelly Building, University of South Wales, Reforest Campus. The opening event is Friday 16th September 6-8pm and continues 17th – 21st September 10am – 4pm.
“On the course I have created artworks that enable the viewer to ‘step into’ a migraine.
“Over the years my work has been well received and it’s so rewarding to change someone’s perception of migraine.
“I aim to continue creating artwork and encouraging migraine conversations to show non-sufferers what we experience and to show sufferers they’re not alone.”
The focus of this year’s Migraine Awareness Week is what migraine really is and the overall impact it can have on each sufferer. The hashtag #NotJustAHeadache is being used on social media.
Visit www.migraine.org.uk for more information.