Percy Harvin (Andy King/AP)
Percy Harvin has been dealing with migraine headaches for about a dozen years, but he is hopeful his diagnosis of sleep apnea puts an end to them. So far, it has.
Friday will mark four weeks since Percy Harvin collapsed on the Minnesota Vikings practice field and ended up in the hospital overnight.
For many, that kind of medical emergency would be a curse. The second-year Vikings receiver believes it was the beginning of a solution to the migraines that have dogged him since he was 10 years old.
Harvin’s hospitalization on Aug. 19 led to a battery of tests, including an overnight sleep test that determined had sleep apnea. It also showed that his heart was stopping multiple times while he was sleeping.
“It's been a blessing,” he said Monday. “… Had I never been in the hospital from the start, they'd have never figured out that it's sleep apnea. I probably would still be going through the same thing now. Like I said, everything happens for a reason. A lot of doctors think that's what it was, from the lack of sleep. They seem real confident, so of course that makes me confident.”
Harvin said he hasn’t had an incident since he collapsed on the Vikings practice field last month. He was held out of practices and games for almost 10 days while medical tests were being conducted, but he returned to action for the Vikings’ third preseason game on Aug. 28 and hasn’t missed a practice or game since.
Vikings coach Brad Childress said about an hour after Harvin’s collapse that the 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year had a migraine before the official start of that practice, went inside to be examined by doctors and returned to watch the beginning of practice. He collapsed on the field and was tended to by an emergency medical technician and other medical personnel for about a half hour before leaving for the hospital in an ambulance.
A few days later, he underwent tests that showed his heart would stop beating when sleeping.
“It was scary, but at the same time I was halfway asleep sometimes so they'd just barge in the room and be like, 'Harvin, you OK?' And I'd be like, 'Um, I think so.' And they were like, 'Your heart just wasn't beating.' So I was like, 'Um, what do you want me to do?'” Harvin said. “So that was the tests that we found out what it was, and I've been sleeping a lot better so hopefully that's it.”
Harvin said he has never slept well, but this is the first time he has been diagnosed with sleep apnea and he said lack of sleep is one of the things that causes migraines.
“Just listening to the doctors break it down, the sleep apnea thing, I've noticed myself jumping out of my seat since I was younger. So, like I said, they are real confident in that's what it is, so we'll just stick to the plan and follow what they say,” he said.
“… It's just lack of oxygen going to the brain, so (the heart) stops for a minute, so hopefully with the oxygen and steady pumping that'll keep it flowing,” he said.
Part of the plan has been to discontinue the migraine medication he had been taking, another bonus for him.
He is now sleeping with a machine that forces oxygen into his lungs and he’s already noticed a major difference in the way he feels.
“It's a 100 percent difference. I'm not waking up groggy. I'm waking up feeling refreshed and ready to go, so like I said, hopefully that's it,” he said.
Harvin said his collapse was the result of his reaction to migraine medication, not the migraine itself. He said the number and types of medications have varied since medical personnel at the Mayo Clinic and neurologists didn’t always have the same plan for him.
“I'm just finally glad we got all that simplified, and like I said, just get sleep and eat right and hopefully get this turned around,” he said.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.