After my vital signs were tested, we were sent to the exam room. Of course, it was freezing cold and I was still shaking uncontrollably. My husband and I sat in silence, not knowing what to expect. The doctor came in and asked, “What brings you in today”? After telling him my whole story, he proceeded to check my ears. He noted that the right one looked like there was fluid in it. He asked if I’d been having any ear trouble. I answered, “No, everything’s been fine”. He then asked me to lay back on the exam table. Anxiety rose up inside me. I knew he was probably going to check my heart, but I was afraid to lay back. And for a good reason because as soon as I did the room started spinning. I told him I was dizzy and the room was spinning. Not that I wasn’t already feeling strange before laying down; it’s just this time I was feeling true vertigo, a spinning or whirling sensation. He sat me up quickly. “Let’s not do that again,” he said. He held me steady while I sat on the edge of the table, still feeling woozy and coming out of the spinning sensation. He didn’t say what I had, but gave me some steroid nose spray and anti-nausea medication. I was told to get some rest and then follow-up with an ENT in a week. He asked me why I was shaking so much and I said I was cold and nervous.
At this point my husband and I left thinking maybe I had some sort of ear infection. Honestly, though, it felt like it was something much more than that. We went home and tried to not alarm the kids, but they could tell I was sick. “What did the doctor say?” They asked with wide eyes. I could see the fear and worry in their faces. That hurt my heart so much. As a parent you don’t want your kids to suffer loss and thinking that maybe something was seriously wrong with me made my heart hurt for them and my husband. I didn’t want to let them down or not be there for them.
The anti-nausea medicine made me really exhausted. I felt like I was heavily drugged, loopy and spaced out. I wasn’t sure if the medication was the complete cause of the incessant fatigue or my health issue. I spent most of the next four days sitting upright on the couch with a big pillow behind my head. It seemed to help stabilize my head and lessen the feeling of motion I was continuing to have. It felt like my head was moving. I’d ask my husband if he could see it moving and he couldn’t. I looked in the mirror and It didn’t appear to be moving, but I could feel it internally. Every few minutes I would feel a tremor or shaking sensation flow across my forehead or the back of my head. That was really scary. What was happening to my nervous system? I tried to read to pass the time, but It was still difficult to focus and it took so much of my energy. That was frustrating to me because I’ve always been such an avid reader. Watching T.V also made me feel bad. I couldn’t enjoy anything. I started to notice an occasional pain in my right ear. Was it psychosomatic? I didn’t have a problem until the doctor said he saw fluid in my right ear. I sat, prayed and waited for time to pass. I remained hopeful, but, dark thoughts of cancer or stroke flooded my mind. Worst case scenarios would haunt me, but the optimist in me would try to knock down all those dark thoughts. It was an internal struggle.
This year had been a rough one for me, starting with an Ovarian Cancer scare and the trouble I’d been experiencing with my right arm and shoulder made me feel like I was falling apart. My husband had Rotator Cuff surgery a year earlier and I was having some of the same symptoms of shoulder pain as he had experienced. As a matter of fact, we had switched sleeping sides on our bed two weeks earlier, because shoulder pain was starting to wake me up at night. I tried to find a connection between my shoulder ailment and the dizziness. I was grasping at straws really. When you can’t do much but sit you have a lot of time to think. I had an appointment scheduled with an orthopaedic specialist ten days from now. I wasn’t too hung up on it, I really was putting my shoulder issue on the back burner. Pain was pain and I could understand that. An altered reality was something entirely different.
Being a regular reader, I read the Bible a lot. I was drawn to the book of Job. This year was feeling like a Job experience for me. Of course in the book of Job his loss was so horrific I can’t compare my problems to the calamities that Job experienced. The ovarian cancer scare was just that a scare. It wasn’t my time for cancer and hopefully it will never be a trial I’ll have to endure. Having said that, this year was a long drawn out year of waiting , praying and trusting God the best I could. Just the twelve weeks or so of them monitoring the pin head sized cyst felt like an eternity. Most folks know that ovarian cancer is a tough diagnosis. Time is of the essence if you want to survive it. It takes its toll on you, even if you are trusting the Lord. I’m human and like most my struggle is against the flesh and the enemy that tempts me to doubt Gods goodness. To wonder if He is for me or against me. Sometimes trials will make us feel alone and that God isn’t on our side. Believing that God knows all things, I wondered why all this was happening at once. My shoulder pain started while I was waiting on the final outcome of being cancer free. There seemed to be no break until the next event or struggle was happening. And now this new health problem was happening on top of the shoulder problems. From January until July I was in a waiting and praying mode. I remember praying for perseverance last year as I felt that it was something I needed to develop in my character. To be able to persevere is so important! I don’t want to be a quitter and I had shared that with God. I questioned if this was Gods answer to my prayer. I also questioned if this was the best way for me to learn this. If this was how God was teaching me to be stronger and to hang in there, It sure wasn’t the way I wanted to learn.
After about four days on the medications I decided to stop taking them. The side effects were just awful. I was asleep all the time. I’ve never liked to take medication. Matter of fact, I’m really a very healthy person- until this year! I hadn’t had a cold or the flu in over four years or so. My blood pressure was always low as well as my cholesterol. My weight stays down, partly due to good genetics and the way our family eats. So being really sick was out of the norm for me. That’s also why 2011 felt like a Job experience. Everything was happening! Maybe I was making up for lost time.
There were times after the first few days that I’d feel better for a few minutes. Maybe 5 or 10 and I would get on the computer and research dizziness. That’s just how I am. I like to research stuff. I like to get to the root of the problem and find out the information for myself. It’s a good thing to be informed but sometimes it can be bad, especially if you get the wrong information. I pieced together from my research that I had possibly have BPPV or Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. The symptoms matched what I was experiencing. The spinning usually starts when a person is in bed and rolls over. The spinning sensation lasts a few minutes. The only problem was I had other symptoms, and that confused me. I wasn’t a clear-cut case that’s for sure. I was sleeping on my back at night but, would prop myself up with two pillows to elevate my head. I developed neck pain, because of my new sleeping position. I would move very carefully. I didn’t turn my head fast, as I was trying to avoid dizziness
The big day finally arrived! It was time for my visit to the ENT. It had been seven days since my major episode and the last day or so I was feeling quite a bit better, not 100% but maybe 60% more normal. I hadn’t had a spinning episode since the visit to the Centra Care Clinic. I drove myself to the ENT appointment as my husband couldn’t get off from work. I felt like I could drive and the imbalance I was feeling didn’t seem to affect my driving. I was still exceptionally nervous to drive though. I had to sing all the way to the office just to keep my mind from thinking what if I start having a spinning attack in the car! Once I arrived at the ENT and was in the exam room, I explained to him my story and how I was feeling better. I told him I thought the medications might have been making my symptoms worse and getting off of them probably was helping me feel better. I didn’t go into detail with him about all the cognitive problems I’d been having such as brain fog and visual disturbances. He listened intently, checked inside my right ear ( the one that had fluid) then said “Let me lay you back, keep your eyes open when I do”. I was apprehensive as I had been sleeping propped up on two pillows to avoid laying flat. I was developing a phobia of being flat on my back. He proceeded to lay me way back in the special chair while turning my head to one side. Once I was way back the room began to spin and I felt a funny movement with my eyes. They were jerking side to side. He sat me up after the spinning sensation stopped. As I sat up I still felt off-balance but not spinning or vertigo. He laid me back to the other side and I felt the same sensation, however it was less intense. He diagnosed me with BPPV in my left ear. I asked “Will this go away”? He smiled and said ” Yes, it can be fixed”. I was so relieved. I didn’t really take time to describe to him all the symptoms I had in addition to the spinning. As doctors usually are he was pretty brief and in a hurry. As a matter of fact It felt like the brain fog I’d been having on and off was coming back as I sat there. The doctor said there is a procedure that a physical therapist can do, to move the crystals in my left ear back into the right place. He would give me the person to contact. When I researched later what procedure the ENT did in his office to diagnose the BPPV I learned it is called the Dix Hallpike. He was watching my eyes to look for nystagmus. He noticed that I had it more towards my left ear. Which would mean that my left ear was the problem ear. I asked if it were ok for me to drive and he said, “As long as you don’t tilt your head back really far and use your car mirrors”. I left holding the physical therapist business card tightly in my hand. I left the office still feeling light-headed and a little off. I felt like I’d been on a boat or roller coaster and had just gotten off, except the feeling didn’t go away.
I had to stop at the grocery store to pick up a couple of items on my way home and I noticed that as I walked through the isles, it felt different from other times. The aisles and turning to go down them felt like an altered reality. I couldn’t wait until my appointment with the PT. I wanted relief and fast! I called to make and appointment and was told It would be at least two weeks before I could get in.
Twelve days into my experience I decided to start a journal. I had to write down what I was feeling. Feeling like the only one on the planet with this type of problem. The only thing that kept me going was that I knew God was with me. People wouldn’t understand this, but God knew how I felt. I began to question “Why was this was happening to me”?
An Epic of Dizziness (Part 2) by Melissa Jo Elliott is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.