Open Thinkering


Tag: health

Migraines and TIAs

Some people, perhaps most people, choose not to publicly share their health information. Perhaps I’m a fool, but I choose to do so — at least selectively. This is mainly because over the years I have been helped by people putting things online about themselves that I have subsequently recognised in myself.

This post is intended to use my own experience to be helpful to anyone else who might find themselves in a similar situation. A word of warning, though, I might be a ‘doctor’, but I am not a medical professional!

After I woke up on Friday, for a period of 5-10 minutes I had visual and auditory disturbances, a slight loss of balance, and co-ordination issues. These happened sequentially, followed by me feeling like I couldn’t get my words out and a slight slurring of speech. It was weird, but it passed.

The next day, I had a headache. It was persistent enough for me to take one of my migraine tablets (Rizatriptan). In the afternoon I felt well enough to do some sprinting in an attempt to improve a Strava segment personal best. On Sunday I felt fine and went for a longer run.

Family and friends insisted, quite rightly, that I should get checked out. I saw the doctor on Monday and he suspected I may have had a Transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or ‘mini-stroke’. He checked me over, took bloods (which came back fine) and referred me to the stroke clinic. The NHS is awesome, particularly in Northumberland.

Today is Tuesday and I’ve been to the stroke clinic who have assessed me. I wasn’t allowed to drive myself there, or indeed at all until they gave me the all clear. Thankfully, they’re pretty certain it wasn’t a TIA as what I describe came in a ‘wave’ rather than all at once. It’s almost definitely just my pattern of migraine symptoms changing as I get older — but they’re giving me a non-emergency MRI scan in the next couple of weeks just to double-check.

Although I (probably) didn’t have one, if you’re reading this and recognise something similar has happened to you, then get checked out! As the Wikipedia page for TIAs states:

The occurrence of a TIA is a risk factor for having a major stroke, and many people with TIA have a major stroke within 48 hours of the TIA. All forms of stroke are associated with increased risk of death or disability. Recognition that a TIA has occurred is an opportunity to start treatment, including medications and lifestyle changes, to prevent future strokes.

I’m really pleased it was ‘only’ a migraine-related issue that I had on Friday, but I was stupid to wait more than 48 hours to follow up on it. Again, if you’re reading this because you had a ‘funny turn’, go and seek some medical attention.

Life is short. It’s easy to get into a good routine and feel pretty invincible. But this was a reminder that we should all count our blessings.

Are you OK?

I wanted to share a couple of things that I found via Jason Kottke. The first is this infographic made for healthcare workers in Colorado:.

Infographic with column ranging from green ('Thriving') through to red ("In Crisis ")

The reason I think this is helpful is that it’s sometimes difficult to spot in yourself and others when things start slipping from “Surviving” to “Struggling”.

If you do find that someone you know needs some help, Kottke links to an article published by Kathryn Gordon this time last year entitled How to help a friend through a tough time, according to a clinical psychologist.

She points out how difficult it can be to help others if you haven’t been thought what they’re suffering:

When we are not equipped to support loved ones through a hard time, our discomfort can compel us to point out a bright side or offer a simple solution, which may come across as dismissive. Sometimes, my patients say they walk away feeling judged or burdensome. While putting ourselves in other people’s shoes and treating people how we want to be treated are generally useful principles, they are not always the most effective ways to cultivate compassion. It is hard to imagine being in a situation that you have not actually been in, and people differ in what they find comforting.

Gordon goes on to give five pieces of advice:

  1. Ask them how they are feeling. Then, listen non-judgmentally to their response.
  2. Show them that you want to understand and express sympathy.
  3. Ask how you can support them and resist jumping in to problem-solve.
  4. Check in to see if they are suicidal.
  5. Reassure them, realistically.

I found these resources really useful, so thanks to Kottke for sharing them. I hope by re-sharing these resources here means they reach a few people who otherwise wouldn’t have seen them.

This post is Day 69 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

What do we mean by ‘the economy’?

Some research I did during the Black Lives Matter protests pointed me towards Seeing White, which is Season 2 of the amazing Scene On Radio. I’ve been catching up with other series of the podcast since then, and the third series about toxic masculinity is also excellent.

However, it’s an episode of the most recent season which I want to focus on here. Season 4 concentrates on the origins of American democracy and, towards the end of March 2020, the hosts recorded a special bonus episode.

I listened to the episode this morning and it put into words something I’ve really been feeling about references to ‘the economy’. Thankfully, Scene On Radio provides audio transcripts.

Here’s the main host, John Biewen, talking to his co-host and collaborator, the academic and activist Chenjerai Kumanyika. They’re discussing the tension between the economy and democracy.

John Biewen: So in those cases from our series, and in others that we’ve looked at, it seems clear that building a healthy economy, as the ownership class understands that, is usually not the same as achieving wellbeing for most people. And here we are today, this argument still seems to be very much with us.

Chenjerai Kumanyika: So, you look at what we’re dealing with right now with this crisis, there’s a lot of evidence suggesting that this thing of prioritizing profit has a lot to do with why our disaster preparedness is so far from what we need right now. Most of y’all have probably heard that Trump dismantled a pandemic preparedness team inside his administration that had been created during the Obama administration. But what you really have to look at is how he explains hisreasoning for this. In a press conference where he was describing why he cut thepandemic team and other things, he said, “I’m a business person….”

BONUS EPISODE: Pandemic America, Scene On Radio, Season 4: The Land That Never Has Been Yet

They play a clip from Trump where he says he doesn’t want people ‘standing around’ being unproductive. But of course that only makes sense if you think countries should be run like businesses.

Chenjerai Kumanyika: And so there’s all these ideas circulating that everythingin the world should operate like a business and that somehow businesspeople are the best equipped to do everything. But in this case what you see is that business instinct was incredibly shortsighted. When we’ve actually known about these kinds of flus for decades, and people have been warning about just this kind of global pandemic — including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who’s playing such a prominent role right now. He’s the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and you’ve probably seen him talking about this. He’s been warning about flu pandemics at least since the 1990s. But with that government pandemic unit cut from the budget, the decision of whether or not to develop and mass-produce vaccines and tests was an economic decision left in the hands of people figuring out, like, are we gonna profit from this?

BONUS EPISODE: Pandemic America, Scene On Radio, Season 4: The Land That Never Has Been Yet

So there we have it. By ‘the economy’, what politicians and others mean is ‘profits for wealthy people’. This is why, with a straight face, they will talk about the ‘balance’ to be struck between the economy and the number of deaths caused by the pandemic.

Put like that, as profits for wealthy people, I don’t particularly care about getting the economy restarted. I care about human lives. Trickle-down economics has, after all, been debunked as bogus.

This post is Day 42 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at