Thursday, April 7, 2016

Vertigo

It has been a busy week; with my good friends baby shower this weekend it is non-stop crafting and baking through Saturday morning! I can't wait to post pictures from the shower! 

It has been a few weeks since I last posted a story from my past. So I thought I would do another throwback Thursday! This was something that pulled me out of my comfort zone. Something far different than the tiredness and pain I am accustomed to. One of those "creative ways" my body has come up with to be "sick". I hope you'll find laughter in this set back as I did do. 

You’ll notice a theme of “hypo” in my blog. Don’t worry, there will be more after this one – you can count on it. The prefix “hypo” generally means “deficient or less than normal”. Until recently, I did not realize how often “hypo” was used in the medical world. Before November, I had only heard it in reference to hormones. This just goes to show you that even though I thought I was a medical guru from all the research and experiences I’ve had, I am not. There is still an entire medical dictionary out there that I don’t understand. I remember as a kid, when my brothers and I were sick, my mom would pull out the giant medical dictionary. Now we have the Mayo Clinic and Web MD to tell us if what we are experiencing might be a brain tumor or heart attack.

Vertigo is one of those medical words I had heard but never experienced… that is until I woke up at 0630 on a Sunday morning to a room spinning left, then right, then around and around and around until I finally found my way to the toilet. This went on all day until I finally had enough. A few hours later, I walked away from the ER full of nausea medication, mellowed out on anti-vert, and with a diagnosis of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (excuse me?) and a referral to the Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) Doctor.

What life looked like...
Let me preface with this: most of my doctors are out of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. That being said, I should have known that nothing is ever simple. The ENT clinic refused to see me until an audiologist could run tests. I saw three audiologists by the end of the first week. I followed weird lights with my eyes, wore funny goggles,  and had warm and cold air blown in and out of my ears. Electrodes were placed on my neck and head, and I was forced to feel vertigo in a “controlled” environment over and over again. Yet I couldn’t shake the constant dizziness and an unstable feeling. The smallest pebble would throw me off balance. The motion of someone’s hand would bring back the dizzy spells; even thumbing through Instagram a little too fast would cause a slip of the eyes. I thought I was off my rocker. Mad, even. But I wasn’t – the audiologist was able to give me a diagnosis.

Unilateral Vestibular Hypofuntion. Don’t bother looking it up; I’ll just explain it for you. Basically the balance system in my inner ear [the peripheral vestibular system] wasn’t working properly. Raise your hand if you know how important your inner ear is to the balance system. The constant dizziness, the poor balance, vision issues, and the nausea were happening all because something destroyed the vestibular nerves in my left ear.

My question: how does this happen? The answer: Vestibular Neuritis, a disorder resulting from an infection that inflames the inner ear and the nerves connecting the inner ear to the brain. Scary, right? It is scary, especially when you find out it’s irreversible. Once the nerves in your ear have been destroyed, they won’t function again. They are hypofunctioning.

Gatherings became stressful due to the constant motion of everyone in the room. Driving was out of the question; biking, walking in the dark, unstable surfaces, and even scrolling on the computer made me anxious, nauseous, and dizzy. I felt like my experiences would never be the same again. I thought I’d never be able to go on a backpacking trip with my husband again or ride my bike past the capitol to work. There would always be a looming anxiety over anything I did. My safe place was the couch, lights on, just sitting.

When something abruptly changes, the dramatic part of me throws a pity party, and my mind goes straight to the worst case scenario. The reality of my glass-half-empty self thinks I’ll never be the same again. I asked why God gave me a condition that only made me clumsier than I already am (at least I found some humor in the situation). What joke could this be? Thankfully, my husband Aaron canceled my pity party and made me go through my days as normal as possible without being dangerous to myself or to others.

Paris Cobblestones
I started Vestibular-Ocular Therapy at Walter Reed to learn how to become comfortable in my daily life. I really have to thank my husband for pushing me, taking me on walks, doing balance exercises with me, and making me do all the house work... coordination at its finest. I think he got a good snicker out of that last one.

After a month of sessions, a trip to Paris (cobblestones and all), and prayer from friends and elders at my church, I cannot believe the progress I have made. I still get dizzy, especially in the dark (and in spin class), and if my immune system is fighting something, I feel the symptoms more and more. But generally speaking, I feel okay. I will never be completely “normal,” but let’s be honest… I was never normal in the first place.

The power of prayer is unmistakable. God hears, and he answers. He may not give you everything you want right when you ask for it, but the Lord knows what is good for you. He will provide in miraculous ways. So keep praying. Nothing is out of the question, and nothing is too big for God to handle. For that, I am thankful. And for the fact I can happily walk down the street without holding anyone’s hand…even if I do drift slightly to the left.

“The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. The Lord will raise them up” 
James 5:15

- R

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