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Maths and Migraines

I have spent a while looking for a document to double check a fact for my book I am writing called ‘The Great Love of God’, early this morning. In the process I came across a copy of Adam’s letter which he was told to write at the end of grade 6 to Eltham High School about himself. It made me cry.

In it he writes:
I am aiming to do the very best that I can in all of the subjects I study at Eltham High School in order to become a doctor. I have already started studying the year 7 and 8 math book and thoroughly studying the year 7 science textbook. I will continue to study the level up textbook in science and maths so that studying it a second time in class will help me to remember it in the future. Hopefully this will help me to achieve my goal in year 12.

I am looking forward to woodwork, art, robotic technology, science and learning trombone, the band at Eltham High School and meeting new friends and new teachers. I would like to get into the jazz band with my trumpet and maybe trombone later on.

My concerns are making good friends in the same class as me and doing well in creative writing.
Myself as a learner
• I learn best when I am taught visually or it is written down for me to look at. I can’t work well if the teacher just says something and doesn’t explain it or write it down.
• I have found that I am good at science, math, spelling, art, wood, electronics, sculpting and most hands-on things.
• My best subject is math because I am quick and accurate at it.

This is where I stopped reading and cried. Adam has repeatedly told me lately “I hate maths! It makes me feel bad about myself.”
He has had some bad grades lately in Maths Methods year 11. I explained this to a client and friend last night. He phoned for a tax question then told me, his wife had been in Melbourne that day with their daughter, who is in year 10. She has been suffering with migraines. I asked if he remembered that Adam had started to suffer with them in year 8. He said he did remember. I quickly and briefly ran through with him what we had learnt about overcoming them, to see if there was anything he had not yet tried for their daughter.

He said the main worry was that she was missing school because of the migraines. I briefly told him about Adam’s situation now, and that maths is the biggest concern if a student misses it for any reason. Maths continuously builds on what we have learnt before. We went to a lecture by a year 12 maths teacher and examiner at Caulfield this year, and he pointed out that there has been a study done which proved that if you do something 27 times it moves from your short-term memory to your long-term memory.

Adam became ill this year in March on and off for about four weeks. The timing could not have been worse for maths. It was the start of quadratics, where he would have revised the previous year’s work. Then the next two chapters built on chapter 4, of which he had missed a great deal, due to the current year’s illness. It was not migraines but it was similar. What we have discovered lately is that Adam has real gaps in his maths knowledge due to the migraines, which started in 2011 when he was in year 8.

In term three of year 8 Adam was away for most of a seven week period. It also was the time when he was doing the important parts of year 9 maths because he excelled at maths and was going to do year 10 maths in year 9. But he missed so much that year due to migraines and over the coming two years from them also. It did not help that the teachers often told the students to just do one third of the problems. It did not stay in his long-term memory; he needed to do more work to achieve that.

Now he is planning to only do ‘further maths’, and he has lowered his goal from medicine to paramedic/nursing. He is just as happy with these career choices, but I am disappointed; I had really thought he would be able to treat people and help them get over their migraines. He planned to, no matter what type of doctor he became, do the six-month course in laser pen acupuncture which his paediatrician had done, so he could offer patients what worked for him. It also worked for 60 to 70% of the paediatrician’s patients who suffered from migraines. It was a simple treatment. It looks like a child’s laser pen which is held against the skin at all the appropriate pressure points. We found a local GP who did it but he said Medicare would only allow him five treatments on a patient. However we know Adam needed five minutes twice a week for up to 3 months and no more. I suggested to Adam that if Medicare restricted him when he becomes a GP, he could just charge patients a small fee for his five-minute treatments. I was sure they would pay.

I had been able to work at a desk of my clients the day before (Monday 28/7/2014) because one of the female staff members had been away for at least eight days from really severe migraines. I was hoping that I would be able to help her with the list of things which Adam had tried and found worked at various times for him. We are very certain his migraines were triggered by neck and shoulder pain. The paediatrician had said about 70% of migraines are triggered by neck and back problems.

Also one of my clients told me she had suffered from migraines about four times per month. She took part in a study with Latrobe University to see if acupuncture would help. They found that regular weekly treatment worked, but it should not be extended past three months, as it could undo the good it had done. We found the treatment gradually worked over a period of six hours to reduce Adam’s migraine and give him relief. But the effect only lasted for 3 to 4 days. It needed a twice weekly 3 to 5 minute treatment to make Adam better.

My client who did the course at Latrobe said she still suffered from migraines during the three months but they gradually got further and further apart. She had, I believe, one more migraine shortly after the course and she has not suffered from them since then. That meant she has been free from migraines for many years. I hoped all the suffering Adam experienced and knowledge we have gained would help him as a doctor to help others. I also thought that maybe his excellent skills as a woodwork carver would maybe make him an excellent surgeon one day.

When I talked with my client, whose daughter was suffering from migraines, we realise they had not really tried diet, which is the first idea the doctors insisted Adam try. We had to see if foods like cheese, chocolate, et cetera were causing the problems. However dropping these totally from his diet for more than a month made no difference. We did find that sleeping on a bed which was not his own triggered them. There were also a number of drugs which helped him; Stemzine, Largactil administered by intravenous drip in hospital (which is the only way it can be taken), and Oxynorm. These three would actually cause the migraine to go within about an hour. Initially chiropractic treatment could also achieve the same result. Other treatments just reduced the severity of the migraines.

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