What If Rudolph Had Migraines?

Nancy Harris Bonk Health Guide
  • Each month, I write an article about a celebrity or historic figure that has Migraine disease. I find it interesting that famous people have the same conditions we do -- after all, they really do have problems just like us. But a few years ago, I took a different approach to my series and wondered how Santa would manage Christmas if he had Migraine disease. Can you imagine how difficult his job would be with Migraines? With all the noise, commotion and travel he does during the Christmas season, one can only hope Santa's Migraines are under control. After thinking about this, I wondered who else in Santa's company may have Migraine. It wasn't hard to come up with a possible suspect - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

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    Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was born with a rather large anomaly: a big, bright, red glowing nose. He was a colicky buck, bleating frequently and was generally not a happy little reindeer. The reindeer staff at Santa's medical center determined Rudolph did indeed have colic. Additionally, his red nose was still "glowing" strong and hoped with time, as he grew older, he would outgrow both.   


    As Rudolph grew up, it became apparent that his nose wasn't going anywhere. Instead it grew along with him, glowing and blinking when he began to talk, especially when he became excited. As time passed, and he continued to mature, he entered school with a special nose piece that his parents had made so his nose would be covered during the day. As he progressed in school - doing very well, by the way - he would occasionally complain that his head hurt. His parents took him to the reindeer staff who attributed his pain to "budding," or for us non-reindeer folks, his horns were developing.


    Rudolph continued to get bigger and thrive, except his head pain increased. He started to miss classes, his grades were slipping and he began avoiding reindeer practice. You see, he didn't want to participate in "reindeer games," which taught bucks, among other things, how to fly. Each time he attempted to fly, his head pain intensified. His parents could now see a change for the worse in poor Rudolph as he went back to the reindeer staff for help.


    After extensive testing (including specialized reindeer imaging), discussing Rudolph's medical history, his symptoms and his extended reindeer family's medical history, it was determined Rudolph had Migraines! Hermey, who is an outstanding staff member, was particularly helpful explaining to Rudolph and his family that Migraine is a genetic, neurological disease that needs to be managed. To make his new diagnosis a bit less complicated, Hermey asked Rudolph to think of his friend Dasher who had type 1 diabetes (there's no HIPAA in the North Pole) and how well he managed his disease. He went on to explain that a Migraine attack is triggered by certain stimuli that reindeer with overly-sensitive brains may encounter.  These stimuli can include eating certain types of twigs, branches and berries, not drinking enough water throughout the day and disruption in the reindeer sleep schedule. Another big trigger Santa's reindeer experience is the frequently-changing barometric pressure the reindeer endure during their careers. Rudolph has an additional trigger that no other reindeer has: his nose. Not having seen this before, the staff was unsure how to handle it - something many humans with Migraines can understand.  


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    He was instructed to speak to the reindeer counselor who specializes in chronic illness to learn how to cope with Migraine - something that is mandatory at Santa's company. Hermey prescribed Maxalt (which is approved for "bucks" aged 6- to 17-years-old) to take at the first sign of a Migraine attack, keep a Migraine diary until his next appointment, not skip any meals and maintain a regular sleep schedule. Rudolph was also given handouts about Migraine from the American Reindeer Academy of Migraine and Headache Specialists (ARAMHS) to look over. Hermey went on to ask Rudolph if he thought he could make these changes in his life and his reply was, "If it'll help reduce my head pain, why wouldn't I?" Hermey then gave Rudolph his email, telling him if he had any questions about his new diagnosis he could contact him directly.


    The reindeer family left the medical center feeling much better about Rudolph's head pain. They were given the tools needed to help their young buck with his Migraine management plan and felt confident Rudolph would be able to comply with the lifestyle changes Hermey suggested. Although it may not be easy, he seems determined to abide by the instructions he was given and learn how to manage his Migraines and not let them manage him. Rudolph's anomaly may be a big advantage when it comes to fulfilling his dream; his shiny red nose, Migraine trigger and all, may help him be the lead reindeer and guide Santa's sleigh one day.





    Photo: Flickr user toypincher.


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    © HealthCentral Network, 2012.
    Last updated November 27, 2012.

Published On: November 28, 2012