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I write this personal story to encourage everyone who knows a person suffering with a chronic illness, to please pray for them, phone them, send cards, visit them, and help them with any little thing that might be a blessing. Let them know you care. Don't give up on them, and don't let your friendship fade away because they can't do the things they used to do. And for those of you who are suffering from illness or disease now, I pray that God will be your strength, your ever-present Help in time of trouble, and give you sufficient grace to endure. If you are learning to persevere and live life with some awful physical ailment as your constant companion, then you already have a stronger character than most people ever will. You are already a triumphant survivor! God bless you!
Just three days after returning home from a great vacation in Scotland and Ireland in July 2000, I suffered my first vertigo attack. The room looked all wavy and spinning, I felt nauseous, and I threw up several times. I didn't know what the heck was happening to me; I'd never felt so totally unwell in my life. On Monday, feeling tired and weak, I dragged myself to the doctor. He thought I might have an ear infection and made an appointment with an ear specialist. But a week later, a worse attack hit - severe spinning, nausea, vomiting, sweats, chills, and ringing in my ear. Then more and more severe attacks, and on and on with specialists and tests, medication and extremely-low-sodium diet, no alcohol, no chocolate nor coffee nor anything with caffeine, strange jerking-the-head exercises, and PRAYERS from EVERYBODY, but I was still getting sick as a dog just about every other week. I read everything I could on the internet about "Meniere's Disease," and I tracked every variable I could think of, including what I ate, menstrual cycles, high- and low-pressure weather systems, you name it but nothing seemed to make sense as the catalyst for these horrid attacks. Even when I could feel an attack starting with wooziness, Meclizine pills didn't help one bit. Also, there was a constant high-pitched tinnitis (ringing) in my right ear 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and sometimes prior to a vertigo attack, loudly shrieking like the emergency broadcast signal BLASTING inside my ear for DAYS at time! It was TORTURE! Torture to endure the ringing, and torture with fear of the next immanent attack. Despite trying to do everything right, I just kept getting worse and worse. When the vertigo attacks hit, for hours and hours and hours, I'd lie on my bed in the dark, trying not to move a muscle, not to turn my head, or even move my eyes, because any little thing exaggerated the spinning sensation. With my eyes open, the room looked like it was whirling and spinning; with my eyes closed, I felt like I was falling and falling off a cliff. So I'd try to stare at a plain blank wall just inches from my face or stare into total darkness so I couldn't see anything spin. Sometimes I'd get ringing in my left ear, too, and it would scare me to death that maybe I was one of the unfortunate few to get the disease in BOTH ears. As the months went on, I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually spiraling downhill and losing all hope of ever having a normal life again. Absolutely exhausted, I kept trying to drag myself to work as often as I could so that I could keep the medical insurance. But I never went anywhere else. Sometimes a debilitating attack had hit leaving me unable to stand, sit up, or even turn my head, and vomiting in front of coworkers, friends, or strangers, then needing my brother and Mom to come rescue me and drive me home and get my car. God forbid that a sudden attack should leave me stranded alongside a road on a freezing cold night during the winter. So I gave up visiting friends or going out at all. I felt abandoned by life, and by God, though I tried desperately to cling to His words of comfort, "I will never leave you or forsake you." Eight or nine months into this nightmare, I was getting suicidal. My doctors told me that Meniere's Disease is a mystery - no one knows what causes it, and therefore, THERE IS NO CURE for it, and the constant ringing indicated nerve damage that could eventually make me deaf. The only other possible solution suggested was a barbaric operation to cut through my skull and surgically REMOVE the entire inner ear, rendering it deaf and totally useless for balance, with no guarantees that I wouldn't get the same problem later in the left ear! Otherwise, doctors talked about how the severity of the attacks may lessen as the years go by, but the duration of attacks could get longer and longer (I'd already had vertigo attacks that lasted up to 19 HOURS at a stretch, needing days of bed rest after each one). I remember my doctor matter-of-factly saying, "So when you're 70 years old, the membrane of the inner ear cannot heal itself as quickly..." 70 years old?!?! -- I just wanted to give up and die right then. I couldn't IMAGINE going through such hell for another 30 YEARS!
In April of 2001, maybe it was God's way of answering all the prayers... my dentist MISdiagnosed an infection and thought I needed a root canal. She prescribed antibiotics for 10 days. I didn't think I could possibly get any MORE sick than I had been, but between the vertigo making me vomit all the time and then the antibiotics upsetting my stomach every day, I was a bed-ridden zombie. When I finally got to a doctor several days later, I was dehydrated, my heart was racing, my blood pressure had bottomed out, and yes, I really was as bad off as I felt! -- apparently at risk of having a heart attack or stroke, not to mention being an emotional wreck. The doctor said I was over-medicated and told me to stop taking everything for a couple of days, then slowly start back on the diuretic and potassium for the Meniere's. I recuperated for a couple of weeks, no vertigo. And a couple more weeks, no vertigo. It was like a miracle to go a month without getting wiped out. Maybe getting so dehydrated was what my body needed to "reset" its fluid level? Only God knows. It took about three more months to start feeling human again. To this day, when it's very quiet at night, I still hear the faint, shrill shriek of damaged nerves in there, reminding me of a hell I never want to repeat. I still take the diuretic, potassium, and B-complex daily - I'm too chicken to quit the medication and see what might happen. I THANK GOD each time it crosses my mind that I haven't had a vertigo attack since April 2001, and I PRAY that it will NEVER happen again!!!
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