Percy Harvin and how sleep apnea affected his migraine headaches

by Diana E. Lee

It sounds like NFL Wide Receiver Percy Harvin (Minnesota Vikings) is one of the luckier chronic migraine patients out there.

He was actually able to identify a specific reason for his drastically increased number of migraine attacks (sleep apnea) and implement a treatment that seems to be helping (CPAP). He is performing solidly and confidently and taking contact without any issues.

I know a lot of people are going to think, “Well of course they found the issue for him. He had access to the best of the best in medicine.” It’s true, he did. But many of us out here living with chronic migraines have had access to the same level of knowledge. Sometimes at the end of a very long, hard fought journey to find good doctors with headache expertise, but still, we’ve looked at our bodies and these migraine attacks from every possible angle medicine can remotely suggest. Nothing has made a significant difference. We will have to keep looking. Something as relatively simple as a sleep study isn’t going to lead to our big answer. Anybody want to start placing bets on how many times we’ll be sent the link to this news by a well meaning acquaintance?

What has been lost in these headlines is that Harvin said his heart stopped beating for 10 seconds in the hospital the day he collapsed at practice. Was this a side effect of his migraine prevention medication? A reaction from a treatment medication? Totally unrelated to medication? We don’t know. We just know he shares that common bond of living through the bizarre things we deal with as people with chronic illnesses. His heart stopped beating. Scary stuff and a reminder of how serious these medications we are so used to dealing with can be for a small number of people using them.

Of course, it is incorrect and dare I say naive for the media to proclaim Harvin cured. Chances are he will rarely be bothered by a migraine attack for the rest of his life. But the odds tell us he may have an attack once in a while. That’s how the migraine brain works. I know we harp on it, but it is a big point of misunderstanding. Furthermore, the so-called “cure” in question is an expensive, burdensome set up that involves wearing a mask to sleep every single night for the rest of his life. Not exactly a dream come true for a a young, handsome, eligible twenty-something, am I right? Though welcome, I’m sure, it will be a daily reminder of his fight against this disease.

Diana E. Lee is a chronic migraine patient who blogs at Somebody Heal Me.

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