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Migraines drive Douglas from job

July 20, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - When former Washington County Attorney Richard Douglas goes to the doctor, he brings a list of his medications with him because there are too many to fit on the medical form.

Douglas, 55, takes 26 different prescription drugs, most of which are for a problem he has battled since the 1980s: headaches so severe they have altered his life.

The headaches, which have gotten worse over the years, forced Douglas to leave the county attorney position prematurely, he said.

His last day in the office was May 22.

He called the county attorney position, in which he worked for about 10 1/2 years, his dream job.

"I didn't want to go, and I held off as long as I could, but the headaches got so bad," Douglas said by phone Wednesday.

He suffers from status migraines, which last for days; chronic daily headaches; and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

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The County Commissioners are in the process of hiring a full-time assistant county attorney to fill the opening in the office. That person will join County Attorney John Martirano and Assistant County Attorney Kirk Downey.

Douglas said he hoped to retire from the position well into his 60s. He said he enjoyed the challenges of the job and working with the commissioners and other county employees.

He doesn't like to refer to his stepping down as retirement, which is typically a positive transition, he said.

"I haven't seen anything positive at all yet ..." Douglas said.

Aside from going outside to walk around the house for fresh air, Douglas said his condition has practically made him a shut-in.

While he can stand being outside during the day for a short period, he spends most of the time indoors.

He hasn't driven, been to the movies or a restaurant in five years, he said.

The light sensitivity can trigger migraines, as it did this week when he left the house to go to the doctor, he said.

Douglas said he wore four layers of dark glasses on the visit, but it wasn't real effective.

"It triggered a migraine," he said.

He hopes to find help for his headaches at the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago, which is known as the premiere facility for migraines and different types of headaches, he said.

Douglas, who has been to the clinic several times, said doctors there in 2001 found a combination of drugs that gave him relief. He said the medicine stopped working on after five years, and doctors are looking for other solutions.

Douglas said he hopes others who suffer from migraines and constant headaches might hear his story and find help at the clinic.

He plans to continue seeking treatment from the facility as well, he said.

"They keep trying," Douglas said. "I'm convinced I'm with the best, and they've helped me before."

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