Yellowknife bylaw ‘makes change for migraine sufferers’

Lona Hegeman with her migraine warning sign
Lona Hegeman with her migraine warning sign.
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A Yellowknife woman says municipal enforcement in the city is changing its protocol because of her severe reaction to flashing vehicle lights.

Being pulled over by municipal enforcement is a headache for most of the city’s drivers – but for Lona Hegeman it’s substantially worse.

Hegeman says flashing lights used by emergency vehicles have the potential to trigger migraines lasting a week or more.

“Two months ago I was pulled over because I had gone a bit too fast,” she told Moose FM.

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“When I was pulled over, I asked the officer to dim the forward-facing lights because it would trigger a migraine [but] he thought it was a ploy for sympathy on my part.

“I got the ticket, went home and had a 10-day migraine – which was very difficult to endure. You’re out, you’re in a dark room, you can’t do anything.

“It’s very debilitating. People often think I’ve been out of town but no, I’ve been nursing a migraine.”

When she recovered, Hegeman decided she needed to avoid the same thing happening should she pick up another ticket in future.

First, she worked with Janet Pacey’s Signed design studio to come up with a sign for her truck. The sign, which is reflective, reads “Flashing Lights Trigger Migraine” and is affixed to her bumper.

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She then approached Doug Gillard – manager of the city’s municipal enforcement team – to ask what he could do.

“It was the best thing ever. I went to see him and started off by asking if he knew what a migraine is. He said he knew exactly what a migraine was,” said Hegeman.

“He said he would make sure all the officers are aware of this, then accommodate us by turning off the forward-facing flashing lights if this sign is on the truck and you identify as a migrainer. He actually put protocol in place for that.

“I left feeling well-heard and really hopeful for the future that, should it happen again, I will get the accommodation I need to maybe not have the severe reaction I did last time.”

Yellowknife’s municipal enforcement division declined to comment but didn’t dispute Hegeman’s version of events. She believes Yellowknife is now a national leader in the way it treats migraine sufferers.

“The response was the best it could have been, and I think we might be the only jurisdiction in Canada accommodating migraine triggers like this,” she said.

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