I may not be the Bride of Frankenstein, but I certainly felt like it. Here’s the story of how I ended up with electrodes on my face and forehead.
While sitting in a new medical office, the clerk handed me the usual questionnaires plus one I had never seen before.
Have you fallen in the past 12 months?
Me: At least three times.
Have you experienced any dizziness or balance problems in the last 12 months?
Me: Big yes.
Do you feel unsteady when you are walking or climbing stairs?
Do you require assistance to walk, such as a person supporting you or using a walker or a cane?
Me: My cane is my constant companion.
Do you feel dizzy or unstable rising from a sitting position?
Me: Big yes, again.
According to a brochure they gave me, I am a definite candidate for falling again. The brochure claimed that many falls are due to an inner ear disorder called Vestibular Dysfunction. And 85% of Americans over age 80 are affected, putting us at great risk especially if it results in hip fractures.
The brochure promised that falls can be prevented. According to the Centers for Disease Control: “By employing effective interventions, we can appreciably decrease the incidence of fall-related injuries, improve the health and quality of life of older adults and significantly reduce health-care costs.”
So what was the magic solution?
Melissa, a technician, hooked me up to a balance testing machine. (See above photo.) While the electrodes were in place I had to shake my head lightly six times. Melissa asked that I use my eyes to follow a laser light projected on the wall in front of me without moving my head. After about 20 minutes of similar instructions, she analyzed my eye and head movements on a specialized electronic machine. She informed me that my horizontal eye movements were okay, but my vertical ear and eye coordination needed improvement.
She gave me seven eye/head exercises to perform twice daily for one minute each. Melissa instructed me to return in one month for re-testing to determine if my ear/eye movements had improved.
Sounds simple, no? Seven minutes per day twice a day should not be a hassle, but it was. Although I tried to be diligent, there were some days when I could not make that second seven-minute commitment.
Towards the end of the first month, I found the exercises easier to do because I no longer had to re-read the instructions to see if I were doing them correctly. Then one day, before my afternoon nap I performed the first set of the day. One of the exercises required that I look at a fixed object at the end of the hall and walk toward it while nodding my head vertically increasing the speed along the way.
However, as I briskly walked, eyes fixed, head bobbing, I felt a new sensation — like a sound but no pain, and it was on the right side of my head/neck area. Immediately afterward, I went to sleep for a few hours but upon awakening had severe vertigo.
I could not get out of bed and called my neighbor, Roxana, who made a quick pharmacy run to purchase some Dramamine-kind of substance. It helped but not completely and I was non-functioning for several days. Fortunately, my daughter, Amy, was visiting from California and she drove me to the chiropractor and elsewhere. I labeled her my Medi-Van
My chiropractor didn’t think I had done anything to the inner ear but that I had done something to my neck. I am now in my third week of chiropractic neck treatments and have temporarily suspended the eye exercises. I feel like I am back to square one, wherever that may be.
So what’s the moral of the story? I’m not sure. The irony is that by attempting to improve my balance, I acquired vertigo, the extreme of imbalance. What a dilemma. Do I resume the head/eye exercises? I’m not sure.
Decades ago, when my three children were small, at the onset of any illness symptoms, I rushed them over to our pediatrician, Dr. Naiditch. One day he scolded me, “Mrs. Dresser, you bring them in too soon. Let the symptoms develop so that we can make an accurate diagnosis and treatment.”
In a way, I am continuing that practice. In attempting to circumvent major health problems, I jump the gun. Unfortunately, I often shoot myself in the foot — in this case my head.
Folklorist Norine Dresser has difficulty shedding old bad habits.