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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Vertigo - A Horror Story

You just never know when something odd or traumatic is going to happen in your life. Last Tuesday, December 10, was an evening just like any other. There was the usual cyber-surfing and television viewing. And my usual mental battle over whether or not to have a little snack before the evening was over. No, it's not because I have an excessive appetite. It's because I am now taking insulin as well as oral medication for diabetes, and I worry about my blood sugar getting too low overnight. I decided not to have a snack, and settled down for some good sleep.

I woke fairly early on Wednesday (the sun was still snoozing) to answer the call of the bladder. My body felt like my sugar might be getting a bit low, but I decided to just go back to sleep. I slept pretty deeply for a couple of hours and then popped wide awake. I was lying on my side with my back to Trent, and lifted my head about an inch and turned my eyes to see if he was still sleeping. And that was when the world began to spin out of my control. Everything was reeling. And my stomach was revolting. I then did something I have never done to Trent in our fourteen years of marriage. I started yelling for help. "I need you to help me, and fast. I'm going to throw up, and I can't get out of the bed." Trent quickly got me a receptacle as I was lying in bed, worried at what might be wrong with me. 

I somehow managed to use my test kit and discover that my blood sugar had not gotten too low. "Crap," I thought, "I've had a stroke." But within a second I told myself that I hadn't. After all, I could talk. A bit. And then barf. (Let me pause at this moment to say that I would rather deal with just about anything affecting my body as long as I don't have to vomit.) I asked Trent to help me by calling my doctor's office. I was so sick and dizzy that I literally could not lift my head. I couldn't lay on my back. Turning over in the bed brought on horrible vomiting. My doctor's diagnosis, through a conversation with a nurse assistant, was vertigo. He advised sips of sports drinks, along with over-the-counter tablets for motion sickness. Our dear friend Marie came to the rescue and picked these things up for us, but nothing helped. First off, there was no way I could swallow and retain anything. And the chewable pills went down and right back up. So after nearly twelve hours and a call to the after-hours doctor on duty, I asked our friends to take us to the hospital.

I am great in hospitals. I can visit anyone there. I offer cheer to the staff and patients. But I don't go there myself. The last time I was in the hospital was twenty-five years ago this month, when I was diagnosed with lupus. Incidentally, I felt way better when I was hospitalized at that time. And I was in the beginning stages of kidney failure. Another way to describe the intensity of my illness is that although I did make some occasional moans or groans, I was too sick to cry. Think about that a moment. Sometimes a person feels so lousy they break down and shed a tear or two. I was too sick to do that.

I had heard of vertigo before. Heck, I even saw the Hitchcock movie. Jimmy Stewart's character got dizzy when he was exposed to heights. If you look up vertigo online, it's usually described as mild to moderate dizziness. Serious vertigo, which is a result of a malfunction of the balancing mechanism of the inner ear, is debilitating. I ended up being in the hospital for four days. I was CAT scanned and MRI-ed to rule out stroke, both of which were negative. Vertigo is something that has to be worked out by forcing the balancing system to get back in order. And it can sometimes take a couple of weeks for that to happen, so I consider myself very fortunate in that regard.

But even in terrible illness, I could find some humor. First off, the receptacle that Trent got me to be sick in. It is a white plastic glass with a Christmas motif. And he unwittingly picked the best possible thing for me. It was the perfect size for someone who was too sick to lift her head to hurl. At the hospital, many people tried to get me to use a basin instead, but I was able to clutch my glass right next to me, whichever side I was curled up on at the time. Late one night, as I held it close to me, still feeling pukey, I said aloud, "I love you, glass. You are my second-best friend." After some thirty-six hours of vomiting, the intravenous medicine allowed me to actually ingest an occasional popsicle. By Friday night, I had graduated to graham crackers. Another late night moment, with me eating bits of graham crackers, still too dizzy for anything other than my curled up on my side position, and I heard myself saying, "I love you, graham crackers. You are my new second-best friend."

I was weak and exhausted when I got home at about three on Sunday afternoon. I declared that I was going to go straight to bed for the next twelve hours. Our friend Thayne reminded me that would mean a very early morning, so I amended it to fifteen hours of sleep. Unfortunately, I found myself weak, exhausted, and plagued with insomnia. Sunday night I was awake until midnight, and Monday night until four in the morning. It was not helping me to recover my strength and energy, and I found it frustrating and bizarre. And then it occurred to me. My brain and body were afraid to fall asleep. What if I woke up again feeling the same way I had when this mess started? My insomnia was worse on the night that my blood sugar felt a bit low, just like the morning when I was laid low. So I have had to resort to medicating myself to get some sleep. It's amazing what getting just six hours of sleep will do to improve your energy level and disposition!

I hope I haven't blathered on too much about this mess. But I would like to share a few more thoughts. If you know someone who has vertigo, know this: it is not just a little problem that you can just get over, or just ignore. And it is my firm belief that good nurses and nurse assistants are worth their weight in gold and precious jewels. They are the angels who patiently and lovingly help us survive the unpleasant little curve balls that occasionally get pitched at us by life. And thank you for all of the kind concern and comments you've gifted me with. They have soothed and comforted me, and lifted my spirits. And finally, the best wish I could give anyone. Be well.