Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Keeler Migraine Center

Thanks to the Keeler Migraine Center, migraines no longer have to be such a headache.

Img42.pngTony Demaria knows firsthand the debilitating pain that can occur if he goes to see his favorite rock band live in concert.  Sitting in his doctor’s office at the Keeler Migraine Center in Ojai, he shakes his head and laments,” I shouldn’t have gone.”  But surprisingly, his doctor emphatically disagrees, “What, and miss the Stones?”  Instead, Dr. Robert Cowan, the center’s Medical Director, reminds Tony how to pre-treat himself so that he doesn’t have to consider passing up the next concert.

Nine years ago, Tony began having severe migraine headaches about once a month.  Gradually they occurred more often, with increasing severity.  His doctor at the time started prescribing Maxalt, which provided the relief he needed from pain so acute he couldn’t fathom getting out of bed unless he needed to vomit – a common symptom of migraine sufferers.  The Maxalt, however, only provided temporary relief and sometimes caused rebound migraines.  Thus he found himself in a vicious cycle, and the drug was making him “dumb and punchy.”

 “I was hurting,” recalls the 61-year-old Ojaian, who was having incapacitating migraines several times per week. 

Desperate to find help, Tony found the Keeler Migraine Center about a year ago.  The center was founded as the clinical arm to the Huntington Medical Research Institutes by Dr. Cowan, Senior Clinical Research Scientist, and his associate, Dr. Michael Harrington, Scientific Director of Molecular Neurology.  Actively involved in the research behind the study of headaches, the two brought the integration of their work in the lab to the care of migraine sufferers at the clinic two years ago.

The center targets patients who are acute migraine sufferers.  “The more they hurt, the more we can help,” promises Dr. Cowan, who has himself suffered migraines since childhood.  Although there is no cure for migraines, the clinic has a proven track record of treatment plans that bring about a reduction in frequency, severity and duration.

When Tony, one of 28 million migrainers nationwide, started coming to the Keeler Center, he first went through a comprehensive process that educated him about migraines.  He began with journaling, a cathartic process that also helped identify his “triggers.”

As a self-employed business owner working 60-80 hours per week and commuting to Los Angeles, stress was steadily becoming a factor in his recurring migraines.  In addition to stress, heat, light, sound and even vigorous exercise negatively affected him.  Dr. Cowan urged Tony to reduce his work week and develop a steady routine with regards to sleep, diet and exercise since interruptions to established routines are known triggers.

Regular had never been in my vocabulary.”  But on the doctor’s advice, Tony is now maintaining a 40-hour work week, exercising with less intensity and taking advantage of the clinic’s weekly meditation and support groups, which are among the many complementary therapies offered. 

Reflecting on his progress, he has seen tremendous improvement.  “And my wife has noticed the difference!” he laughs and says of the woman he married 42 years ago.  Now for Tony, a good week means either having no migraine or just a mild headache, which for him is a world of difference.

Migraine Statistics:
Migraines are considered a chronic disease.
National cost of migraines: $14 billion per year, mostly in lost productivity.
$2 billion per year is spent on medicines and doctor’s visits.
The World Health Organization states that migraines can be more disabling than paraplegia.
There are 28 million migraine sufferers in the United States.
Migraines are 3 times more common in women than men.
1/3 of menopausal women tend to lose their migraines.

This article was written for Caring Magazine, a publication of Community Memorial Health Systems.