A new life experience unfolded for me last week. I was taking a thinking break (aka nap) on the couch to plan a few items on the “To Do” list. I felt fine and life was good, until something reached out, grabbed me, and turned my world upside down. I know now the problem travels under the impressive moniker benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), but at the time, I was sure I was next in line for a firsthand look at heaven.
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The room was spinning on its own. Nausea overwhelmed me and I don’t mean an “I have the flu” upset stomach. We are talking about “nuclear level I rode the roller coaster then the merry-go-round while Shawn drove me through the back roads of West Virginia” stomach upset. I needed something solid to hug so I did not spin into outer space. The toilet is bolted to the floor in two places and connected to a pipe and seemed a likely choice. My stomach seconded the motion and we stood together to walk to the bathroom. My brain offered no gyroscopic functions. My arms and legs were taking journeys of their own, and my eyes were flashing like one of those 16mm film projectors we used to watch in school.
I knew something was not right and decided help was a phone call away. Surely I could make the 10 foot journey to the phone. I should have considered the words of Scripture …
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”
I Corinthians 10:12
I rose to my feet for a microsecond then began another crash dive toward the floor. Gravity is a good thing, sometimes, and it was the only thing working that afternoon. My head smashed the glass in one of Shawn’s what-not pictures and I fell against the bathroom door. And wouldn’t you know it, the phone started ringing? I could not move me to get the door open, but it was probably a telemarketer anyway.
The susceptibility for vertigo seems to be a genetic issue so if you are in your 30’s or 40’s and your parent loves to describe aches and pains, take notes. You may be looking at your future. Genes are the gifts that keep on giving. My mother has related her past experiences with vertigo many times. Now I know she was not exaggerating.
BPPV is caused by loose gravel in the inner ear drifting someplace it does not belong. Look it up if you think I am pulling your leg. The shifting ballast triggers a loss of horizon and a cessation of the brain’s balancing act. Mr. Brain simply shuts down as many systems as possible until the issue can be resolved. Picture Microsoft’s blue screen of death with the reams of data dumping to the monitor. We are not sure what happened, but you need to reboot. Press the button or pull the plug. In the case of a laptop, you may need to pull the battery. How do I reboot me and return to a functional state?
Disclaimer – I am not a doctor and these comments are in no way intended as medical advice or a substitute for your doctor’s care. Please consult your medical professional for health advice.
Does it surprise us there is a pill to help with the overwhelming symptoms of vertigo? It is tiny pill. It can be chewed in an emergency, and it works wonders in about 15 minutes. I am wary of taking medicines but sometimes, I’m in no position to argue. The anti-spinning pill can be accompanied by a little anti-nausea pill and the dynamic due will drop a 200 pound man on his backside for a couple of hours. But the sleep is sweet and the vertigo is defeated, so it’s all good.
In the ER or doctor’s office the doc will first convince himself you have BPPV and not some other malady. You may be treated to the Epley maneuver, a series of body and head positions designed to return the misplaced rocks to their full upright and locked position. It helps, but adds to the sensation of spinning out of control when it is performed. We found several examples on You Tube of doctors showing the steps, and the procedure can be done at home.
There are exercises used to treat BPPV if the Epley maneuver does not fully resolve the issue. These are done for about two weeks. Search for Brandt-Daroff and be advised your spouse will be laughing as you work through the steps. I added my own sound affects now that the BPPV is lessening its grip. I hope to enhance Shawn’s entertainment experience through this quality time together.
Be patient. The BPPV may attack more than once. I had 3 hits (2 on Saturday, 1 milder episode on Wednesday) before we noticed considerable improvement. It may take 7 to 10 days to return to normal. If an attack starts, be calm. Sit still and upright. Keep your eyes closed.
And if you are driving, please pull over.