Sunday, October 28, 2012

Adventures in Vertigo (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Tell Doctors When I Know More Than Them)

Last Saturday, October 20, I went up to Brookings for a girl's night out, and I had quite a time. When I woke up the following morning, I felt surprisingly fine - not much of a hangover at all. As the day progressed, however, I started feeling rather worse. I had to face facts - I'd overdone it the previous evening, and I had a hangover that needed to be dealt with. I haven't had many hangovers in my life; I've been remarkably lucky in that regard.

At one point I'd made some food, but decided I wasn't up for it, so I set it aside and took a nap. It was about this time when I first started feeling especially dizzy. When I woke up, I ate the food (very slowly). From that point on, the rest of the day is kind of a blur. I just remember the dizziness being very bad, and thinking that I needed to throw up, and hugging the toilet in the hopes that I would. I couldn't sleep. At one point, I did start to throw up, and I lost everything I'd eaten at all.

I'm not sure when it became necessary to call a local nurse hotline, but I did have my boyfriend make the call, and based on my symptoms, they suspected I was severely dehydrated, and should be taken to the ER. Good fuckin' times.

Once at the ER, we were told that it looked like I had a nasty stomach virus of some kind. Given that I'd thrown up repeatedly between the tortuous walk down to the car and my arrival at the hospital, this seemed like a reasonable diagnosis, but it bothered me that they didn't see the debilitating dizziness as any kind of major symptom. From where I was laying, it was the only symptom, and the real source of my nausea. When they gave me a proscription for something for nausea, I was skeptical, but too weak to ask if I could also have anything for the crippling waves of vertigo that kept me from wanting to move any part of my body. They recommended I go on the BRAT diet (crackers, toast, and a whole host of bland food) and sent me home with my 'scrip. I threw up again in the parking lot outside our apartment, and was put to bed.

The next few days are much a similar blur. I was barely able to make it from the bed to the bathroom without assistance. I couldn't sit up or even open my eyes. I had my boyfriend play episodes of The Simpsons on the bedroom tv just so I didn't have to lay in silence with my active mind but crippled body. I developed aches in my ribs from spending hours on one side or another - it was too miserable to try to lay on another side until it became absolutely necessary.

My diet was pretty limited, but I did deviate from the BRAT diet enough to start getting me kind of cranky about the ER diagnosis. I had absolutely no problems eating frozen fruit, or peanut butter on my toast. By the time Wednesday evening rolled around, all I could think was that they'd seen my vomiting, looked at the twelve other patients in the ER that night with the same symptoms, and didn't think much further. I took my last anti-nausea pill and forced myself to focus on the ER discharge papers we'd been given. There was no mention of my dizziness.

Thursday morning, I had my boyfriend call the ER and explain the situation - what I'd been treated for, and that while the last time I'd vomited had been on Sunday evening, the dizziness hadn't eased. They had me go to a walk-in clinic. Because my boyfriend had spent the whole week afraid of catching the virus, he'd been sleeping on our crummy 8-year-old futon that I'd bought for $100 at Walmart, and was exhausted, so my mother took me. The drive over there was total misery. I couldn't bear to open my eyes at all, and had to be guided everywhere. They offered repeatedly to put me in a wheelchair, but I knew that that would only make me sick. I had to be under my own control, or the dizziness would get the better of me.

The woman who saw me seemed quite surprised that they hadn't even done any blood work at the ER. She ran some more tests, recommended that I return to the ER for an MRI, and off we went for another wretched car drive.

This is getting to be longer than I'd expected. Here's the TL;DR for the whole thing: Drinking. Hangover? Dizzy, dizzy, dizzy, puke, ER, three goddamn days of dizzy, ER, CAT Scan, finally pills that work, and... still dizzy.

I'm seeing an inner ear specialist tomorrow at 9am. They're going to put me on a table and ... I don't know, but I hope it'll fix things. For one thing, I can't afford to miss any more work, but the main thing is that I want to be able to walk in a straight line. I'm better than I was three days ago, but I'm still quite a ways from being totally well. It really comes to something when brushing your teeth on your own feels like a major triumph, and taking a shower takes everything you've got.


  1. This has happened to me numerous times since I was a teen, almost always associated with inner ear congestion. So bad I had to feel my way down the hall, clinging to the walls to stay upright. 3 Sudafed + 3 Advil, repeat as necessary and in a couple days I'm all better.

    Hope all is well soon!

  2. Doing a search for vertigo and stumbled on yr blog. Try the Epley Maneuver. (just search 'vertigo/Epley maneuver' on youtube to see how it's done. Don't know if it will work for you but it did for me. Yeah, most of the time it's an inner ear thing. I started getting it in my twenties and for some reason feels worse after a night of drinking. Hope your feeling better.