Monday, January 24, 2011

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

Well that's, a mouthful, eh?  I have it.  I'm lucky that way.  I know BPPV sounds like some really cool new rocket launcher one might find in a Halo game, but really it's just a new sucky medical condition that I somehow found my way into.

Here's the mechanics of it:  Why Wedge is Dizzy

I went to bed on Tuesday night feeling fine.  I woke up on Wednesday morning, got out of bed and immediately fell face forward into one of the posters on my canopy bed and desperately had to hang on to keep from falling the rest of the way to the floor.

I have had issues with mild dizziness due to blood sugar problems before, so I just waited until the dizziness and nausea passed.  As soon as I took another step I fell into my wardrobe off to my right.  At this point "What the fuck?" was the most eloquent thing I could think of at 5:00 in the morning after having fallen on two of my first three steps of the day.    I worked my way slowly to the bathroom only to realize my bathroom felt like it was bobbing happily up and down aboard the the U.S.S. Holy-Shit-It's-A-Hurricane.  Seeing as how my wife absolutely hates it when I pee seven feet up the walls, all over the bathroom mirror, and into her laundry basket like some sort of demented garden sprinkler, I thought my best course of action was to sit down to pee.

Holding on to both sides of the toilet I gradually managed to settle the pendulum sway of the bathroom in my vision.  I did my business and got up slowwwwly to head back to the bedroom.  When I got there, I thought I must just be experiencing dizziness from some sort of flu-like illness and once I got up and going the symptoms would alleviate.

So, in the spirit of completely disregarding everything that had happened up to that point, I decided to think positively and took one full speed step forward and immediately lost my balance and fell off to the right and onto my bed.  If I was going to be wrong, I guess I was happy to be wrong next to my bed because there was no catching myself going down that time.

I lay sprawled on my back clinging with both hands splayed, fingers clutching the mattress and for one maddening instant, I had thought the bed spiraling beneath me was going to buck me off, so I clenched my ass cheeks harder for more grip and barely managed to keep from being thrown off.

Stare at this gif for about an hour and a half and imagine it moving 5X faster and you'll know how I felt.  (

Eventually the spinning subsided and after two more unsuccessful and, I'm sure, semi-hilarious attempts to stand back up, I finally called Kim into the room.  By now I realize something is really wrong and of course several things go through my mind:

Am I having a heart attack?  Nope, no numbness in any upper extremities and I haven't started talking like Marlee Matlin so that means I'm probably not having a stroke either.

Am I drunk?  Did I drink last night?  Mmm, nope on the latter so I am assuming I am safe from the former.

Am I dreaming?  Probably not because I rarely feel like I am going to vomit in my dreams.

Geez, well then the obvious answer is:  brain tumor.


Kim helps me to the living room where I sit upright in a chair for a bit.  An hour and half later, I am still just as dizzy whenever I move and realize I can't possibly drive to work.

I did my best imitation of a corpse for the rest of the day.  Being unbathed, I would imagine the smell wasn't far off either.

I woke up Thursday determined to go to work.  It was exam week and I would be damned if some sort of brain malignancy or corpus callosum termites were going to stop me from going to work two days in a row during one of the busiest weeks of the year.  I wobbled my way up and down the halls all day, getting done at least a little of what I needed to get done, but by 11 a.m. the woozziness had gone from bad to worst.  At noon I called a doctor and he could get me in right away so I ducked out of work an hour early, fully prepared to find out what kind of terminal condition I had achieved.

After only a few tests the doctor informed me of my hugely uncomfortable BPPV problem and followed it up with the news that it was likely to last for three weeks to a month and more than likely recur off and on the rest of my life.  I couldn't help but think how awesome it was that I wasn't going to die, but that I was going to spend the next month and occasional random future months of my life wobbling around like a drunken 18 month old.  Fucking perfect.  I know.  Even a non-terminal diagnosis can't make me happy.

Basically, my right inner ear was sending bad signals (not bat signals...that would have been kinda neat) to my brain telling it that I was in motion when I wasn't in motion.  The dichotomy between reality and brain perception = vertigo.  I asked doc if that's why the left side of my brain felt like someone had been steel wooling it all day.  Apparently, the brain will eventually figure out that it is getting bad information from that ear and then it has to kick into overdrive to figure out how it is going to filter out the bad information and reinterpret it based upon the information it is getting from my good ear and my other senses. Hence, the left side of my brain was overheating.  That's kinda neat and all, but I really didn't appreciate it at the time because I was death clutching the examination table I was sitting on, because it was trying like a bugger to tip me off.

Doc assigned me some exercises that are supposed to help the acclimation period go faster, but those first few days they were hard to do.  Imagine how you felt the moment you got off the spinniest carnival ride you have ever been on.  Now imagine feeling like that a 100 or so times a day.  It's fatiguing.  I don't know how the exercises are supposed to work, but basically they trigger the vertigo in the worst possible way over and over and over again.  So, working up the will to do them is not a small task.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday came and went and progress was slow.  I looked sort of like the video below.  For the record, I am the black kitten on the right.

  Several times each day I reached out grab tables, refrigerator handles, doorknobs etc to keep myself from falling over.  By the end of the day Saturday I realized that even if my brain couldn't tell left from right and up from down during the vertigo swarms I could still tell where my frontside, backside, this arm and that arm were.  As long as I knew where I was in the room, I could propel myself in the direction that would assure me of the softest landing and cause the least amount of breakage.  So although directions in the room around me were messed up when my head spun, my sense of where my body was, was still okay.  Say I had my back to the couch.   As long as I could tell which side of me my ass was on, I could push myself in the direction of my ass if I felt myself falling and be reasonably confident my ass would hit the targeted couch landing area.   I guess that's what they call adaptation.

It is now Tuesday and the difference between how I felt on Monday and how I feel today are huge.  Still only at about 65% and too afraid to run, but for the most part I can walk at close to a normal pace and my headache is nowhere near the nuclear levels it had been at the previous five days.   It's much easier to do the doc prescribed vertigo inducing, stomach flipflopping exercises now that I already feel a bit better.  I even got something accomplished at work today which is more than I can say for Monday in which I basically accomplished not falling and not falling further behind than I already was.

Now I can appreciate it a little bit more that I do not have a brain tumor.