My Visit to John Hopkins

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

Duff Goldman – photo courtesy of Food Network

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?

 

 

A Few Facts About Vestibular Disorders….with comments about me.

VEDA-BAW Poster-390163-WEB-1

Top Ten Facts about Vestibular Disorders      (This list is put out by VEDA.  The comments in bold italics are by me, all about me.)

  1.  The vestibular system includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that process sensory information involved with balance.  (however, your balance is controlled by your vestibular system, your vision and your sense of touch….but mostly your vestibular system.)
  2. Over 35% of US adults aged 40 years and older (69 million Americans) have had a vestibular dysfunction at some point in their lives.  (I remember my first vertigo attack when I was 30.  However, I had balance issues long before that, most likely caused because I had severe ear infections in my teens.)
  3. Vestibular disorders can be caused by disease, injury, poisoning by drugs or chemicals, autoimmune causes, traumatic brain injury, or aging.  Many vestibular disorders occur from unexplained causes.  (We don’t know what caused mine.  *shrug*)
  4. Symptoms of vestibular disorders include dizziness, vertigo (a spinning sensation), imbalance, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), fatigue, jumping vision, nausea/vomiting, hearing loss, anxiety, and cognitive difficulties.  (I just want to say that tinnitus can be a LOT more than just “ringing” in the ears.  I rarely hear ringing.  I normally hear buzzing, banging, roaring…all kinds of noises, I know one woman who hears music….”ringing” is just an easy way to explain it.  A lot of these symptoms are easy ways to explain them.  Your vestibular system is kinda complicated.)
  5. Vestibular disorders are difficult to diagnose. It is common for a patient to consult 4 or more physicians over a period several years before receiving an accurate diagnosis.   (very sad but true.  For a long time when I had vertigo attacks the doctors had no idea what was happening, I admit I probably didn’t describe it very well.  I remember once I had to have IV fluids because I was so dehydrated, my doctor was convinced I had food poisoning.  When I was finally diagnosed with Meniere’s disease it was a fluke.   I had been to the ER because I had been throwing up for over 12 hours and the doctor there said I was having vertigo and needed to see an ENT, this was the first time I heard the word, “Meniere’s”.  I was not diagnosed correctly.  The doctor didn’t do any test on me.  I could have had a brain tumor for all he knew.  Years later after a battery of testing at Duke, it was determined that I do have Meniere’s, but I also have other vestibular disorders.)
  6. There is no “cure” for most vestibular disorders. They may be treated with medication, physical therapy, lifestyle changes (e.g. diet, exercise), surgery, or positional maneuvers.
    In most cases, patients must adapt to a host of life-altering limitations.  (That’s a huge statement…there is NO CURE for MOST vestibular disorders.  I personally have had at least some type of all of the treatments mentioned…of course they are being very broad in saying what kind of treatments they are, but I use medication, have had physical therapy, and probably will again, I have extreme lifestyle changes…you would not believe how my life has changed…. I’ve had surgery many times, and I’ve had positional maneuvers…..whew…I will probably have more treatments in the future… at least I hope so, I’d like to feel a bit better than I do now.)
  7. Vestibular disorders impact patients and their families physically, mentally, and emotionally.
    In addition to physical symptoms such as dizziness and vertigo, vestibular patients can experience poor concentration, memory, and mental fatigue. Many vestibular patients suffer from anxiety and depression due to fear of falling and the loss of their independence.   (Most people do not understand how a vestibular disorder can cause so many cognitive issues, but it does.  With Meniere’s I’m not just afraid to fall, I’m afraid of having a vertigo attack in public…. this is horrifying.  I no longer fear the loss of my independence… I’ve lost it.  I can’t drive, I can’t go out alone, I use a walker, I can’t cook (it’s too dangerous with a balance disorder), I have a very hard time picking things up off the floor, I can’t take a shower, or bath without someone near by, just in case (often someone has to help me…. I don’t talk about things like this most of the time, and I often push through a lot of things when I’m around other people, but I pay for it later.)
  8. Common vestibular disorders include benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), Ménière’s disease, labyrinthitis, vestibular neuritis, and vestibular migraine.  (personally I have 3 of the vestibular disorders mentioned here.  I have BPPV, Meniere’s Disease, and vestibular migraines.  I also have an unknown vestibular disorder….one that is causing me a lot of problems but the symptoms do not fit in with the other defined disorders.  I will hopefully be going to John Hopkins in the not too distant future to try to find out what this unknown vestibular disorder is and maybe how we can treat it.)
  9. In the US, medical care for patients with chronic balance disorders exceeds $1 billion per year.  (I have to admit, I always wonder where they get these numbers and what they include.   I have to say the treatment of my vestibular disorders has been extreme.  We are very lucky we have insurance.  Of course, insurance doesn’t cover everything.   To give an example of just how much one thing cost…. I had a vestibular illness take my hearing and cause me to get cochlear implants, they cost over $100,000 each.  That’s a lot of money.  Of course, most people with vestibular illnesses do not lose their hearing.  I’m a bit rare.  heh… but aren’t I always *wink*)
  10. The Vestibular Disorders Association (VEDA) is the largest patient organization providing information, support, and advocacy for vestibular patients worldwide.  (VEDA has been a go to place for me to find information.  If you want to know more about a certain vestibular disorder, I suggest going to their website. http://www.vestibular.org)

4 days…….What if?

Surgery is in 4 days.

I’ve been very nervous about a few things, mostly my vertigo and how it will affect my recovery.  I don’t like not having a plan.  When I don’t have a plan, I get scared.  I don’t like to admit fear.  I’m not nervous about the surgery itself.  I’m not nervous about normal hip replacement recovery.  I’m nervous about what I’ll do if I have a vertigo attack right after surgery.  What will I do if I can’t roll over on my left side if I have positional vertigo and the only way it is relieved is by lying on my left side?……I’m afraid of falling…….I’m afraid of how I’ll bathe …..

Then I really sat down and faced my fears….What if?

drawing by me....haha

drawing by me….haha

Really, what if these things happened, what is the worst that would happen?

About having positional vertigo….I can’t lie on my left side….ok, maybe it will be relieved by just turning my head to the left while lying on my back, or tilting it to the left while sitting up, or maybe twisting my upper body will do it?  If not, well golly, when I have vertigo from a Meniere’s attack I can’t get relief, and I live through it, I’ll live through it.  I won’t like it, but I’ll survive.  There is a maneuver that can be done that will stop the vertigo when I have BPPV, it does involve turning me partially on my left side for a bit, but I think it can be adapted.  I’ll just have to deal with it.  That is the biggest thing isn’t it.  I will deal with it.

About having vertigo while walking…or having a drop attack….Well I sure can’t control that!  If it happens, hopefully I can fall well.  Oh, I just giggled, I couldn’t help it.  I really do try my best to fall well on a day to day basis, and I do a pretty good job of it, I’ve only broken one bone!!  No concussions!  (Honestly you have no idea what a feat that is!!)  I don’t know how to fall well right after a hip replacement.  However, I am going to make sure I know how before I leave the hospital.  I’ll have the physical therapist show me the best way to move my leg if I fall.  Maybe if I fall I can do that, if not….well hopefully my hip won’t come out of joint.  If it does, we’ll deal with it.  It isn’t ideal, but something I just can’t control, no matter how much of a plan I have.  I can’t have someone with me 24 hours a day for over a month…or three….to walk with me, holding on to me, so that if I suddenly have vertigo of a drop attack they can catch me and help me.  I’d still end up on the floor.  OH…that’s another thing I’ll have to make sure I know how to do…how do I get up off the floor???  Guess that comes along with how to fall huh?  I wonder how many people ask the PT….so, what is the best way to fall?   hahaha    “Well first, hold on to your walker for dear life!”  *snicker*

I have to admit, I’m a little afraid about how to get in and out of the tub and taking a shower.  Our bathroom is not ideal.  It is not level.  The tub is far from being level.  I’ve never been able to stand in it to take a shower.  My balance is simply not that good.  I have only taken baths since we’ve been here.  The only times I’ve taken a shower has been when I’ve gone to the pool….maybe I could just go to the pool a couple of days a week to shower.  haha….yeah, that would work…considering I’m not getting aqua therapy any more, I’m sure they would let me just come in and use the pool plus it’s a about a 20 minute ride from my house….not the best idea, but it’s just a nice shower!!!!   I’m curious if the shower seat is going to sit level.  When you have a hip replacement you can’t bend your leg beyond 90 degrees, and you can’t put all your weight on that leg. so stepping in the tub is a no-no.  I have to sit down and have a straight leg out and slide in the tub.  They make a special seat for this, but our toilet is in the say.  I have not figured out how to make this work yet, but I’m sure the physical therapist who comes over the day after I get home will be able to do it.  I’m sure they have seen everything.   Hey, I know, I’ll just sit on the seat with my legs out of the tub.  Stuart can help wash the part that’s in the tub, and then he can wash my legs out side the tub.  Yep that will work.  hahaha.  Hey, worst case scenario.  We will work it out.

So…..What if?

What if?….. isn’t so scary now is it??

Hip Replacement with Severe Balance Issues….this could be interesting.

Today….what I learned at my doctor’s visit, my concerns, and how I’m preparing for everything.

I was really shocked when I saw the CT scan of my hip.   Here’s a little quick sketch of what I saw:

by w. holcombe

by w. holcombe

As you can see, in late September I had a perfectly round head on my femur, it looks normal.  The CT I had taken on February 13th, showed the femoral head collapsing.  It is amazing how fast this condition has progressed.  No wonder the pain has progressed so much.  As my doctor said, I’m have a square peg in a round hole.  My leg is now shorter than the other, it is throwing every thing off.  The pain in the joint is very bad.  I haven’t talked about it, but I haven’t been able to walk much.  I can’t walk at all without a walker supporting my weight.  I spoke to a new friend who has this in a number of joints and she said this pain is comparable to bone cancer.  Wow.  I don’t think mine is that bad yet.  Some days I think it gets up there though, but not all the time.  It does ache all the time, I hover around a 7, it never goes below a 5…and that is rare…it does spike to a 10, but I’m lucky it doesn’t stay there long.  It is a very sharp pain when I move or try to put weight on it.  I can’t take narcotics.  They make me feel like things are crawling on me.  I can’t take NSAIDS because I’ve had an ulcer.  The most I can take for pain is Tylenol, and I don’t want to take too much of that, it can damage your liver.  So, I meditate, and I really baby my hip.  If I could take narcotics I could probably move around and do more.  As it is, just the trip to the doctor on Monday left me in so much pain I didn’t sleep much on Monday night, and Tuesday was so bad I couldn’t get up long enough to get myself lunch.  I simply couldn’t do it.  Luckily, Stuart had gone to work very early and came home early, so I got something to eat and much help for the rest of the day.

I got a LOT of information from my doctor.  He told me that many people could have received the same amount of steroids I did and never acquired Avascular Necrosis (AVN).  Guess I’m just lucky.  *grin*  Some people may just have a predisposition to it.  Of course, thinking back, I have had a whole lot of steroids.  He also said this is progressing fast.  There are some other treatments for this, but most are just stop gaps and you end up having to have a hip replacement anyway, and if your femoral head has lost it’s shape, like mine has, you can’t do most (if any) of them.

So, hip replacement is a GO!  I don’t have a date yet, waiting for the appointment setter to call.  I’m sure it will be a little while out, because of things that have to be done before hand.  I have a whole packet of things to be done, things to help you understand more about the procedure and things that are going to happen afterward…..it’s very thorough.  If that weren’t enough, there’s a class, yep a class to explain everything you may have questions about; the procedure, home health care, physical therapy…just about everything.  Don’t know how I’m going to sit through a class without excruciating pain, but I’m going to try.  Stuart said he’d go alone, but I think I should go.

There are a lot of people who have joint replacements, obviously, for them to have a class.  They have really thought of everything.  There will be a home health nurse that will come out twice a week to check my blood because I will be on coumadin to reduce the chance of blood clots.  This has to be monitored closely. (often they just put people on a high dose of Aspirin, but again, I couldn’t do that because of the ulcer thing) A physical therapist will be coming to our home to work with me instead of me having to try to go out to physical therapy.  My doctor said that PT is mostly just walking.  There will be post op services coming out to help set up the house for us, if I didn’t already have one, I’d be getting a walker (I may be getting a new one if they can get me one that fits in the bathroom), a tub bench, and a 3 in 1 bed side toilet.  I wondered what the 3 in 1 was, that means it works a bed side toilet, or railing to hold on to use your own toilet, or to use as a raised toilet seat.  Funny thing, I have one of these back in Durham, Stuart got it a long time ago thinking it might help when I have vertigo, but it didn’t, if I could sit up, I could go to the bathroom.  (you can’t really sit up when the world is spinning like crazy!)  I’ll also get a grabby thing to help me reach things so I won’t bend my leg more than a 90 degree angle.  Also, a special thing to help me put on my socks and shoes.  Stuart laughed, both of those things have been his job for a long time.  Due to my dizziness I can’t pick things off the floor, I was shocked that my doctor knew this!  I haven’t been able to put on my socks and shoes since September.  So this will be a relief for Stuart, and make me feel much more independent.

OH, I forgot to tell you more of what my doctor said about the surgery itself.  I will be in the hospital 1 – 2 days.  I won’t have anesthesia, that doesn’t mean I’ll be awake during the operation, but I won’t be put under a deep sleep.  I’ll have a spinal block.  So I won’t feel all icky, I won’t get sick, and I won’t have to worry about them putting a tube down my throat.  It’s kind of cool.  He told me that most people with this condition tell him that the pain they have now is instantly gone after the surgery.  How cool is that?  He said I will be sore from the incision but I probably won’t hurt worse than I do now.  He said first off there will be a lot of local anesthesia that will take a few days to wear off and that’s when the incision would hurt the worse.  He has been impressed that I have been able to tolerate this much pain without pain medication, so I think I’ll be able to do it.  However, I won’t be babying this, I’ll be working it hard with the PT.  So much more Tylenol.  Maybe a Tramadol now and then, but even that makes me feel funny if I take it too often, but I can take it every couple of days.  He said he will make my legs the same length….yay!  He said I may out live my hip replacement.  All I can say about that is…..life is unpredictable, so no biggie.  I could get this hip replacement and get hit by a bus in a week. No one knows the future.  *shrug*

I’m not afraid of this hip replacement surgery.  I really haven’t been afraid of the surgery itself.  I’m afraid of the hip replacement surgery in conjunction with the rest of my stuff.  Having a severe balance disorder with sudden vertigo that comes on without any warning could be a very big complication to my recovery.  As my doctor said, we can try to plan and prepare for everything, but this is something we simply can’t change.  It’s something we have to hope luck will be with us.

I’m already a VERY CAREFUL person.  I use a walker all the time.  I stay close to walls so if I do have a vertigo attack I have something I can grab and try to fall easy, just slide down the wall.  However, I still fall, OFTEN.  I fell the last week in such a position that if I was recovering from hip replacement surgery there is no doubt I would have dislocated my hip and possibly fractured it.  I simply let go of my walker to sit on the couch and suddenly got dizzy…..WHAM!   This wasn’t even full fledged vertigo, this was just a tilt of the world.  If I was hit with bad vertigo there would be no keeping my balance no matter how hard I tried.  I can’t tell up from down the world is spinning so fast all around.

This is my concern.  Recovering from hip replacement surgery with Severe Meniere’s Disease…or “more than Meniere’s Disease”  what ever they want to call it.  A severe balance disorder and sudden onset vertigo.

Perhaps I should get a Bubble Wrap Suit???  Too hot?  Probably so.

Stuart is going to take time off to be with me during my time in the hospital.  Of course, if he’s completely bored he can work while he’s there.  My doctor said the room I’ll be in is big and has a day bed so Stuart can stay right there.  Since I have a special diet, we can pack me up some food and they will warm it up for us there.  He said he wouldn’t trust the hospital to get it right.  Yeah, I wouldn’t either.

Stuart will most likely be able to work from home for most of my recovery period.  At least for the most difficult part. We don’t know yet, because we don’t know when things will be, or how long it will be.

Going to get our house more prepared.

Not going to worry about my balance problems and my recovery.  I can’t control the future, so no need to worry.  Just be aware and extra mindful of every step I take.  Prepare as much as I can….but worry….no.  Be afraid…no.   One moment at a time, right?

image from sayw.com/quotes

image from sayw.com/quotes

 

Gratitudes 3 – A Pretty Darn Good Week!

by w. holcombe

by w. holcombe

Things haven’t been perfect this week.  I did have a night filled with cluster headaches.  But I got through it, and since then I’ve been feeling, well, pretty darn good.  Until I got this little virus, but I already wrote about that, and I’m grateful that it will run it’s course and I’ll be done with it!  Plus I’m very Grateful that it really hasn’t been that bad, a couple of icky days, but that’s about it.

I am so very GRATEFUL that I found something that is helping me with my tummy issues!  I found a book that addresses the food issues that I have, but I plan to write a whole post about this, it’s so exciting! And I think it could help others with dietary issues.

I am GRATEFUL:

  • that I have a new psychiatrist!  She is so professional.  I’ve only seen her once, but she took a very detailed patient history, discussed all my medications in detail, discussed my concerns, and our future plans.  I was very impressed.  After the last fiasco with my previous doctor, it is such a relief to find a doctor who is not only professional but enjoys her job.
  • that I have been on more regular sleep schedule.  This is something I haven’t had for a very long time.
  • I am waking up with more energy.  Of course, this is probably because I am on a more regular sleep schedule, but it sure is nice.
  • I’ve been able to go down stairs every day this week. Most people probably don’t know just how disabled I have been, but tackling the stairs have been a huge task for a long time.  Most weeks I’ve been lucky if I’ve made it downstairs one or two days.  So making it down stairs every day for a week, that is a great accomplishment!
  • I have gotten out of the house many times this week!  Not only have I made it downstairs every day, but many days I’ve gone out.  I went to the grocery store….a HUGE accomplishment!  I went for a ride with the top off of the car!  I went to the Thrift store and got a new pair of pants.  I went and looked at glasses.  (I have an eye doctor’s appointment tomorrow, and will need new glasses.)  I even went out to eat, this is hard because of all the noise.  I’m also proud I went out to eat and stayed true to my diet, I didn’t eat anything that would make my tummy unhappy.
  • yoga pose 1yoga pose 2I exercised a little this week….a very, very little…but I did something!  Not only did I do a lot more in general, and you can call that a lot more exercise…I know my body is!  I did a few yoga poses almost every morning.  Just a few.  I’m trying to learn to balance more with my eyes instead of relying on my ears so much.  So I’m doing some of the standing yoga poses while focusing on a focal point.  Maybe it will help.   By going out an doing more I’m also working on increasing my stamina.
  • I didn’t let a virus ruin my week.  I was having a really great week, then I caught a virus and suddenly I felt crappy.  I thought, am I going to start feeling really bad again?  Then I caught myself….Stop thinking like that.  I can’t predict the future.  And what has been happening has been great, but it doesn’t mean it will continue.  I  will live in this moment.  and I’ll enjoy it.  If it’s a bad moment, I know it’s a moment.  It’s my moment.  And it’s OK.  (A note to Laurie at HibernationNow….Yes, I did over do it…You were right!  so I’m very tired today…but it was worth it, yesterday I had a a very fun day!)
  • I realized that even having a virus I still don’t feel as bad as I have felt.  No I don’t want to live in the past, but it was a bit of an eye opener when I realized I was lying here sick and I didn’t feel as bad as I have for a lot of the time this past year….heck the past couple of years.
  • My head hasn’t hurt much at all!  As I mentioned above, I had a night of cluster headaches, but since then….my head has been so good to me.  There’s a couple of reasons I think this may be, but I’m just grateful that it has happened!  I’m sure I’ll have headaches in the future, but to have the relief I feel now….so GRATEFUL.
  • I made my lunch today all by myself.  I cut up my own chicken today, and warmed up my own lunch.  Because of my balance issues and sudden vertigo I haven’t trusted myself to use a knife in a long time, at least without supervision.  Today I made my lunch with Stuart upstairs.
  • To hear my husband say, “It’s so nice to be able to do things with you.”   Remembering to be in this moment…..

When the Chronically Ill get Sick

feeling sick, by w. holcombe

feeling sick, by w. holcombe

At the end of a GREAT week I’m sick.

Ugh, I have a virus.  Hubby’s had it all week.  He’s been very tired all week, running to the bathroom often, and just not feeling well.  It hasn’t been enough to stop him from doing what he’s needed to do, but I think he would have rather napped a lot.

Last night, it started to hit me.  I thought I’d just had a banana that wasn’t ripe enough.  Umm, Let me explain, I have fructose malabsorption, bananas that aren’t ripe have more fructose than those that are ripe.  By ripe, I mean with a LOT of spots, most Americans do not eat bananas that are really ripe.  So I need to eat really ripe bananas, the banana I ate last night only had a couple of spots, when I had the first bite I thought, ummm, not quite ripe enough, but I ate it any way.  My tummy bloated, more than it normally would just from a little banana, and it stayed bloated all night.  In a couple of hours I started getting really hot, REALLY HOT.  I got up and ran cold water over my hands and splashed it on my face. Suddenly I felt like I was going to pass out, Stuart had to help me back to bed.  I quickly went to sleep.

This morning I woke to the feeling of having to go to the bathroom.  Not a normal thing, but didn’t think much of it.  I was happy I didn’t have a headache…again!  That’s 4 days in a row now!!  However, I noticed that I was still bloated.  Not a good thing….wasn’t happy about that, but didn’t think much of it.  Was just sad  because I’ve been on an elimination diet and I’ve lost 3 1/2 inches from my tummy in the past 5 days, but I thought, this was just temporary.  Perhaps I was reacting more to the banana because I had been avoiding all foods that I had been reacting to?  I got dressed, even did a tiny bit of exercise…..just a few yoga poses, I’m trying to work on my balance a little since I’ve been feeling better.  But I got a little light-headed, and laid down for a bit.  Got my head together and went downstairs.  Had my morning smoothie and played with the cat.

Suddenly I had to RUN to the bathroom.  My stomach HURTS.  I feel weak, tired, and overall just yucky.  Now I have a headache too.  I won’t be able to do things.  I will be on the couch for the day.  Hubby didn’t feel good for about a week, I hope I don’t feel like this for a week.

So Hubby’s little virus is hitting me hard.

I have found that this is often what happens when someone who is already chronically ill gets a little virus.  We don’t have the little symptoms of a normally well person, our symptoms are much more profound.  At least I’ve found that to be my personal case, and I’ve heard it from others….how about you?  Do you find that a little virus, even a “little” cold hits you harder than the average person?

Now I think I’ll take a nap.

An Expedition – Part 2 “A Look Inside. What did I learn?”

 

Courage1

by W. Holcombe

 

After listening to myself, I decided I should stop trying to figure things out when a vertigo attack starts.  It doesn’t help.

 

I can’t stop a vertigo attack.

If I try to figure things out during an attack I’m creating more angst for myself.  This is already an extremely stressful situation, adding to it does not help.  The best thing I can do for me during an attack is to try to stay as calm as possible, and ride it out.   Stay safe and take care of me.

It is now a week later, I’ve had time to look back, and think about things:

  • I noticed I was feeling antsy, anxious, even a bit manic.
  • I literally had the feeling of shaking inside. A physical reaction.
  • When I started out to get in the car I lost my footing and felt unsteady.
  • At the store I noticed the noise was too loud.
  • We planned to go for a short trip, but once we got there I decided to stay longer.
  • I had to stop more than once because I needed to get focused.  (I needed to focus my eyes on something still.)
  • I was irritable.
  • People were annoying me.
  • When I couldn’t hear Stuart I got annoyed.
  • The irritability got worse as my focus got worse.
  • When we were in the can goods aisle I noticed that I felt things may be moving.   *** It wasn’t until this step that I really noticed that I was having to refocus on things and that I was feeling annoyed and irritated.  

That’s a lot of things I could have picked up on.  Or is it?

For the past, almost year now, I’ve had a very hard time leaving the house for anything other than doctor’s appointments.  Yes, I’m a bit agoraphobic.  I think it’s understandable.  There’s a real possibility that when I go out I will have a vertigo attack, an asthma attack, lose my balance and fall, ect….   I feel safe at home.   This doesn’t mean I don’t go out.  It means I’m afraid when I do.  Sometimes, the fear wins, and I stay home.   Yes, that’s alright with me.   I’m still able to do go out and do something enjoyable now and then.  I work on it, but I still don’t want to take a lot of unnecessary risks.

Because of this fear, this sometimes paralyzing fear, I did not sit back and really analyze the anxiety I was feeling before we left, or the anxiety I was feeling in the store.  I was proud of myself for going!  I was proud that I got out of the car and went in the store!  I was proud of myself for feeling like I didn’t have to run from the store screaming!   So, not picking up on the anxiety being anything more than “normal”….understandable.

So I ask again.  What did I learn?

First, I did learn I need to think before I leave.  Listen to my body!

Is this feeling because of my fear of leaving or something else?

This time, it was mostly due to the fact that I had been put on a course of steroids and I was having a reaction I had not had before.  Yep.  I’ve heard many people tell me you can have these symptoms while on steroids, I simply haven’t had them before.  However, I was on a short pack of high dose steroids to break a month-long migraine.  It worked on the migraine.  That’s also why I was feeling a bit “manic”, and physically jumpy inside.   The physical jumpy feeling should have been a big clue.

Second, I learned that I do not do Big Box stores well.

Even if I had not been taking steroids, I was not focusing well in the store.  The tall aisles, with the repeating merchandise…..over and over….  The way the noise travels in the store….all of this, simply, is not good for me.  I learned this is a trigger for me.

Would it have helped to understand this during the attack?  NO!

Will this knowledge prevent future attacks?  Maybe

A person who has Meniere’s Disease is at the mercy of a vertigo attack.  A vertigo attack cannot be predicted.  It simply can’t.   Sometimes we have little clues that it may be starting, sometimes we don’t, but never can we predict it.   Nor can we stop it.   It is not our fault if it happens.  No matter what we do.  We can avoid our triggers to try to decrease the attacks.  We can take care of ourselves to try to make it easier to handle.  But we must remember we cannot blame ourselves.

I can never be in control.