A couple of months ago I applied to be seen at the vestibular clinic at John Hopkins Hospital. My records were sent, and an appointment was set up for December 27th, then it was moved up to December 11th. I must say, that was just fine with me.
I was scheduled to have a hearing test, and an Electonystagmography (ENG) test before seeing the doctor, but the doctor had to leave at 2pm (before my original appointment time) so he wouldn’t see the test before he left, so we asked if I could take the test at home. You see, I had to stop any medication that might help with vertigo attacks before the Electonystagmography (ENG) test, if I didn’t have to stop these medications while out-of-town, I sure didn’t want to. They said no problem, and I sure was glad. I spent all of Thursday with vertigo, it was slow but it was there, I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I hadn’t been able to take my meds. I also had an attack right before my appointment on Friday. I had very little balance when I saw the doctor and my vision still wasn’t clear. So he saw me when I was not doing well. I think that’s a good thing. How many times have you been to the doctor and all of your symptoms just magically disappear right when you get there? That is so frustrating.
When we walked into the Outpatient Clinic it was like walking into an airport. You checked into the front desk, we both got arm bands to prove we belonged there. There were all kinds of signs and lines and directions, it was a bit to take in all at once. Stuart said we were told where the elevators were (no I couldn’t hear much in there) and off we went. When we got where we were supposed to be, I was very impressed that the check in and out areas were looped. If you don’t have hearing aids of CI’s you won’t understand that. If your hearing aid or CI has a telecoil setting, then the hearing loop provides a magnetic, wireless signal that is picked up by the hearing aid or CI when it is set to ‘T’ (Telecoil) setting, and the person using that setting can hear the voice right in their ear, no background noise or anything…it is really cool. So, we checked in and were told to go to the little waiting room in the back….that’s when it started to look like just a normal hospital setting. The little waiting room, wasn’t all that little, but it wasn’t all that big either. We were early, because I HATE to be late. My first appointment was to get a hearing test…(snicker). But soon a very soft spoken woman came out and said the doctor wanted to see me first, at least that is what Stuart told me she said, I had no idea. She took my vitals, she asked for my weight and height…I got it mixed up as to which one she asked for first, because I couldn’t hear her and I was guessing. Soon the doctor came in…..
We talked a bit about my history and he gave me some tests while in his office. A bit of touching my finger to my nose and then to his hand, turning my hand over and over….ect. Some I could do okay, some I had trouble with. Then he said he was sorry but needed to shake my head a bit. I did not do well with that one. I had to look at his nose while he shook my head. One time when he shook my head Stuart said he saw my eyes jerk, he said it was “kinda freaky”. The doctor asked me to stand up and I staggered a bit, he said never mind, sit down, be careful. I guess that answered that test.
He then said he wanted me to have the hearing test and come back in to see him. So I went out. I still thought it was kind of funny getting a hearing test because I’m deaf. I can hear a tiny bit in my right ear, but it is so little you may as well say, I can’t hear anything. Soon the doctor comes to the waiting room and said, the Audiologist said that since I have cochlear implants she couldn’t give me a hearing test. Yes, I kind of giggled inside. Stuart told them over on the phone that I had CI’s and a hearing test was kind of unnecessary, but they said it was ordered. Then the doctor said they could do the ENG test that I was originally scheduled for now, so he could see it. Well, I had just taken meds to help me, since I was really sick after the test he performed. I told him, that and how it said I wasn’t supposed to take any meds for like that for 48 hours before the test, and I’d already taken it twice that day. He agreed the test might not be accurate under those circumstances. Oops, kinda wish I hadn’t taken my meds, but then again, I really don’t want to be so far from home when I have that test done. I just know I’m going to be sick.
The ENG will show how much vestibular function I have left in each ear. That’s pretty important right now…..because here’s what he thinks and the plan……
He said, it is obvious I have damaged vestibular function, it is just a question of how much, and how much in each ear. He said he believes that, yes I have Meniere’s Disease, and Vestibular Migraines, and he said I have balance issues caused from getting my Cochlear Implants. I noticed before, my vertigo got worse after getting my CI’s, but no one ever said that they could have caused some of it.
He said we have to treat these in different ways. One is to get my migraines under control. He likes that I’m seeing a Neurologist that specializes in headaches, so I’ll continue to see her and try to get the migraines more under control. If we can’t do this, I may be taking another trip to John Hopkins to the Headache Clinic for evaluation. The next thing he said was, I need to have vestibular rehabilitation to train my body and brain to balance without my ears. He also said, we need to kill my balance system in my ears. We plan on doing this with gentamicin shots in both ears. How much I need to have depends on the results of the test, one ear may already be dead, who knows…we just don’t know how damaged they are yet.
I will be seeing a new otolaryngolgist here in Charlotte on Wednesday, the 16th, and we will discuss all of this, and set up getting the test that the doctor at John Hopkins wants. They will confer with each other on a treatment plan. I guess, It will also be good getting a 3rd opinion. The one from my doctor at Duke, the one from John Hopkins, and now let’s see what this doctor thinks. This doctor knows I have been to John Hopkins and they will be conferring with each other.
There are a few questions I forgot to ask. I know many of you are thinking….”You should have written them down.” I did, really, I did. But I wrote it on the paperwork they gave me, and I gave it to them…I didn’t have it after that….duh. So I’m going to ask the new doctor. It’s only a couple of things. Nothing that would really change the plan I think. I just want to know if they think my Meniere’s could be autoimmune, since it reacts so well when I am on steroids; and I’d like to know if they can answer why when I breathe in through my mouth, or drink anything cold or hot I feel it in my right ear. That’s just weird.
I know I forgot to ask him these things because he was telling me things that had been thinking for a long time. I actually asked for this treatment from my doctor. But he wouldn’t do it. He said it was too destructive and I could be so disabled I wouldn’t be able to do anything….ect. The doctor at John Hopkins looked at me and said, “more disabled than you are now?” He then asked if I had been given vestibular rehabilitation, and we told him no, that I asked for it, but my doctor had said that things fluctuated so much he didn’t think it would help. He frowned, and said, he thought I could benefit a lot from vestibular rehab….so as I said before, we plan to do that first. I went into the appointment with no expectations. Actually, I expected them to tell me there was nothing they could do. I had no real hope. I told the doctor this, he said….No, don’t give up hope. I explained, if I came in there thinking he was going to fix me and then he couldn’t do anything I would have fallen apart, if I came in there with no expectations, I would be thrilled if he could do anything. He liked that. We talked a bit more, and he insured me he would consult with my doctor here and answer any questions, and if I came back up there he would be happy to see me. Then when I left he shook my hand and told me that it was a true honor to meet me. That shocked me. I told him it was so very good to meet him and thanked him profusely. and went on my way.
A little about the trip itself…….The trip up to John Hopkins was pretty uneventful. We stopped by Duke to pick up films that I’ve had done….you know, MRI’s, and such. When we went through Washington, I saw the White House, the Jefferson Memorial and the National Monument in the distance. I’ve been to Washington before and have seen those things up close, but it is still kind of magical to me. I don’t know why. Driving into Baltimore, it seemed so BIG. The GPS told us to go straight when we should have gone to the right to get to our hotel and we ended up in a very sad part of town. The buildings were mostly boarded up, yet there were a few businesses here and there. I can’t imagine how they would ever do any business. One place we passed there were a lot of nice cars parked on the road, and one burnt out car right in the middle of them. Soon we made it back to our hotel. It was just a very sad detour.
On Wednesday night…well I guess it was Thursday morning…Stuart shook me awake at 5am. I thought, we don’t have to be anywhere, why is he waking me up. I read his lips… FIRE! I was awake then!! He pointed to the alarm. The Fire Alarm was going off. I jumped up and put on enough to get out of the hotel…it was very hard for me to go down 3 flights of stairs!! We were all out on the street and almost immediately there were 2 fire trucks on the scene. No fire. I never found out what happened. I could not climb back up those stairs, and it took a while for them to turn the elevator back on so we had a bit of a wait. That was fine with me. I was very impressed that the fire department got there so fast. The scariest part for me, if Stuart had not been in the room I never would have known there was a fire alarm going off. I would have slept right through it.
Well, we had an adventure! I told Stuart when we got back to the room, that with all this stress, I still hadn’t had a vertigo attack…that was amazing….so, we were moving to Baltimore. But I spoke too soon. Of course, I woke up with one the next day….and it lasted all day….but I spoke about that earlier in this post.
I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to do anything while we were there. The one day I felt good, we wasted because 2 of my shirts didn’t get packed so I didn’t have enough clothes. Curses. The next day if I had felt well, we were going to do something. We planned to go to the Aquarium, it wasn’t far from where we were staying. However, of all the sites in Baltimore that there are to see…..after all it is home to one of my favorite poets, Edgar Allen Poe…I really wanted to see Charm City Cakes. Yes, I wanted to go see a Bakery! I didn’t even care if I went inside, I just wanted to see the building. It is the bakery from the show Ace of Cakes….that isn’t on any more.
Duff Goldman started it..still owns it, has a second one in LA now. He is often on the Food Network. They do spectacular work, and I was just a huge fan of that show, and I just love Duff. I could just eat him up. I love the story behind his life, and I love his personality. I regret that we didn’t at least drive by Charm City Cakes. Yes, I am a goof. I was sick, had a migraine, couldn’t focus worth a toot, had about 8 hours on the road ahead of me…and I regret that I didn’t stop by and see a bakery. But hey, what is life without the little things?