Dubai: Nurse on cruise ship suffers rare migraine attack with stroke-like symptoms

Her rare condition was diagnosed, thanks to a Dubai doctor.


Saman Haziq

Published: Mon 8 Nov 2021, 1:31 PM

Last updated: Mon 8 Nov 2021, 11:21 PM

A German nurse, who was on a cruise ship off the coast of Dubai, was rushed to a hospital in Dubai after experiencing a rare type of migraine that affects about 0.01 per cent of the population globally.

Although Sophie Marie Troester has had migraine since her younger days, she had no idea about the rarity of her condition until a severe migraine attack recently while sailing off the Dubai coast. Her rare condition was diagnosed, thanks to a Dubai doctor.

Sophie was sailing with the crew from Greece and was off the Dubai coast when she fainted following a severe migraine. She manifested symptoms like stroke and experienced paralysis on the right side of her body. “It felt like a thunderstorm inside my head,” says Sophie.

Though a frantic medical team on the cruise ship came for her aid, she exhibited severe symptoms. The right side of her body had become paralysed, and she could not speak.

She was rushed to Medeor Hospital in Dubai, where a neurologist diagnosed her with hemiplegic migraine - a rare and severe form of the condition.

I was reading a book, and all went blur

The medical team on the cruise ship feared Sophie had a stroke. “I wanted to tell them I was fine. But I could not. Words were not coming out. It was a terrible situation,” says Sophie.

Recollecting what happened on the day, Sophie said: "I was reading a book lying on my bed, and my vision started to blur. I understood that the migraine was kicking in, and I needed help because I had had a previous experience. So I tried to pick up my phone and ring my friend. But it did not take much time. My muscles had become weak, and I could not hold the phone in my hand, and it kept falling. I had to try hard, and somehow, I managed to make a call. But all I could utter was a single word – hospital."

Sophie had experienced a similar massive attack about five years ago. "That was in 2016 while I was in Germany. I went to a hospital, but the doctors could not diagnose my condition. They said I have a migraine with aura. Later, I used to get minor headaches, which lasted for a day or two. But one of this intensity had never happened," she added.

According to her, the effect of the migraine lasts for a few days. “It hits me with tremendous pain. It feels like somebody is ripping your head apart. This excruciating pain continues for a few minutes, followed by weakness in the muscle. Though I get better in one hour, the effect stays with me for some more time, maybe a day or two. Then everything is fine and feels like normal,” added Sophie.

Rare but treatable

Dr Anas Abdul Majeed, a consultant neurologist at Medeor Hospital, Dubai, who treated Sophie, said hemiplegic migraine is rare but treatable. The condition occurs in families and rarely in individuals (sporadic). Sophie belongs to the latter category as there is no family history.

According to him, migraine is a common disorder affecting about 15 per cent of the population. However, the prevalence of hemiplegic migraine is negligible. It is present in less than 0.01 percent.

“The hallmark of hemiplegic migraine is one-sided weakness accompanied by a migraine attack. It begins with a visual symptom followed successively by abnormal sensation, muscle weaknesses, and difficulty in speaking. Each symptom evolves over 20 to 30 minutes and may take hours to subside,” said Dr. Anas.

However, proper diagnosis is crucial and challenging as it is purely a clinical process unaided by imaging and other tests. There have been several instances where hemiplegic migraine was treated as stroke.

“Sophie had the sequential pattern, which helped in the diagnosis,” maintained Dr. Anas, adding that a prophylactic medicine can prevent the occurrence of the migraine.

"Sophie can travel or do whatever she wants to do. She has no other underlying health conditions and is just perfectly fine. She has to take medications for some time to avoid future occurrences," Dr. Anas added.

A happy Sophie said she is grateful to Dr. Anas and the medical team at Medeor for the outstanding care and support during her stay at the hospital. Discharged from the hospital on October 27, she flew back to Germany in a few days.

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