Monday, April 14, 2014

Vertigo: so that's what it's like

My mom has gotten vertigo spells for the past 20 years or more. As she is incredibly detailed when it comes to her personal health, she has described to me every single episode and what might have caused it to happen. Quite often it's a sudden head turn, one of those unconscious moves you make when driving; sometimes it's having your head at an odd angle for an extended period of time, which happens when she gets her hair washed in the salon. Whenever it happens she usually goes to the hospital because she's old and falling has serious consequences, plus she is often unsure if she's having a heart attack. (To which I often say, Mom, if you had enough time to contemplate if you're having a heart attack, you probably aren't.)

So this morning I got to experience a bit of the joy of vertigo. And because I'm my mother's daughter, I'll describe it in loving detail.

Having been on the receiving end of these stories, I almost instantly understood what had happened. I was lying in bed, having just woken up, rolled over to kiss my sweetie, and suddenly felt a bit odd inside my right ear. Almost an itchy feeling, definitely deeper than the canal, and above it, and as I am now looking at pictures of the inner ear, in the region of the semicircular canal.

I opened my eyes and things were moving like an animated GIF loop, fortunately not too fast. I sat up and it didn't go away, and that's when I said "Oh crap, I'm having vertigo like my mom gets." I felt clammy and slightly nauseated. After a few minutes holding still (except for my mouth, which was cussing out my mother for passing this weakness on to me), the spin decreased to a twitch. My guts were wanting to get rid of anything offensive, and did, fortunately in the down direction.

Staring straight ahead was okay. Almost any other direction and the reaction was surprisingly immediate: clamminess and nausea. And it would go away almost as fast when I looked in a "safe" direction. But this was not a gut problem, it was neurological. Looking at the tablet seemed okay, but I couldn't use the computer -- a little too much head tilt there, I think.

I'd researched the Epley maneuver for mom in the past, but was feeling too trembly in the guts to want to try it. When you're feeling this way, the last thing you want to do is something with high potential to make a terrific mess to clean up.

Sitting up in bed seemed to be the best thing for staying un-dizzy and mitigating the chills. My mom had been advised to sit still and stare at a fixed point, so I focused on the opposite wall.  Slowly and gently I started tracking left and right, trying to increase the safe zone. It seemed to work. I pointed my gaze a foot or two higher on the wall and did the same. Repeat, raising a foot or two each time. My toes felt a little achy and I spent some time massaging them. I eventually graduated to turning my head, too. I don't know how long I spent doing this, but somewhere near the end of it, Best Boyfriend Ever came by to check on me, offered to take me to the hospital, and when I said I'd be okay, left for work. Out of everyone I've ever known intimately enough, BBE takes the second-longest time to get ready for work: two hours is average. (My mom is the first.)

As you might imagine from all this back and forth, I was also getting very sleepy.

I was pretty sure I was sleeping sitting up, in between tracking. We had had a normal amount of sleep but I was just wiped out. I carefully lay flat, not sure if this would be troublesome. It wasn't.

I sacked out for several hours. When I woke up things were 100% better. I'm taking it easy and slow this afternoon but I seem to be able to point in most any direction safely. I still itch a little bit in the ear, but I think the crystals are by and large back where they belong.