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[Yosemite]

World upside down...and sideways

Hiking, backpacking, running, biking, climbing, rafting, and other human-powered activities in Yosemite National Park

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World upside down...and sideways

Postby balzaccom » Sun May 03, 2020 8:49 am

Glad this didn't happen on a backpacking trip

On Tuesday morning I mentioned to my wife that i felt a little dizzy, and eventually called into my doctor for a video call visit. I talked with him through some diagnoses and left it at that. It wasn't a massive concern, I didn't feel terrible, and the quick set of diagnostic exercises and existing symptoms seemed to eliminate the more serious potential causes and concerns.

Fast forward to 4 a.m. Wednesday morning. I get up and realize that I can barely walk--and then only by holding onto the walls while I do so. I begin vomiting almost continuous every thirty to forty-five minutes, and if I open my eyes, the world is jumping around completely out of control. And I almost never vomit--if that's not TMI.

We call the emergency advice nurse at 6:30, who calls in a couple of prescriptions. And by 9:30 we know that there is no way for me to keep those in my stomach. Another call for help, and this time we are directed immediately to 911.

We live only two blocks from the fire station, so I can literally hear the sirens going off before my wife finishes up on the call. They are here within seconds, and now confront the challenge of getting me down the twisting stairs of our old Victorian house. Which they did, all the while wearing masks and asking me about Covid19 symptoms (none.)

I am disappointed to note that they did not turn on the sirens on the way to the hospital.

Once there I am immediately given an IV and rushed into an MRI to determine if had a stroke. Meanwhile, they are trying to replace some of my fluids, and also get some motion sickness medication and anti-nausea drugs into my system.

By late that afternoon the MRI has revealed no evidence of a stroke. But i am still unable to move or open m eyes without the world going haywire. More drugs.

The next morning I am significantly improved. I get another consultation with a doctor, and then a session with a remarkable physical therapist who eliminated one thing after another until she announced that it was a problem in my left (!) ear.

--Great backpacking connection here: her dad is about my age, loves to backpack, and when his wife can't join him he does trail crew work to get out in the mountains. As do I--

The good news is that I am now home, and can more or less take care of myself, with the enormous help of my loving wife. And I didn't have a stroke.

Bad news is that I am still suffering from serious vertigo. When I sit still, the whole world slowly revolves to the right, which is quite disconcerting. I can walk, but I have to pay attention to every step. And if I turn my head quickly, all bets are off.

That takes some getting used to.

Yesterday we went for a walk for about 40 minutes. I survived, but I can't really say that it felt great. And apparently, there is no immediate prognosis for quick recovery. These things take time, and it could be days, weeks or even months.

Which not only makes the world look like it is moving a bit more than I should expect, but also that any plans for this summer might well be on hold--vertical or horizontal.

Here's hoping your summer looks better.
Check out our website and blog at: https://www.backpackthesierra.com/home
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Re: World upside down...and sideways

Postby AlmostThere » Sun May 03, 2020 9:06 am

Hope you feel better soon! I too hate being a medical mystery. Stay safe.
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Re: World upside down...and sideways

Postby balzaccom » Sun May 03, 2020 6:09 pm

Thanks, AT. I'm just taking it day by day, hoping things get better. I do have a follow up appointment on Tuesday...hoping for ways to make this better, but it may just depend on beating the virus.

BTW, for those of you who like this kind of stuff, here's a quick analysis. And by the way, I am not a doctor and may have all of this completely wrong, but here's what I think happened... (anyone who gets medical advice from me on the internet is an idiot...)

In my video visit, my doctor immediately focused on a stroke---but I didn't have a single other symptom of stroke, so we moved that to the back burner. And he had me do a series of physical movements to eliminate blood pressure issues as well. At that point, I was only mildly affected, and the major life-threatening causes were not likely, so we agreed to just keep tabs on it. I was to call him right away if it got worse.

But then Wednesday night happened.

In the hospital, the first concern was stroke, so they took an immediate MRI--and I got that good news. No stroke. And they took my blood pressure, and it was a bit high, understandably, but not a problem. So the two most life-threatening issues were not the problem. They gave me fluids to reduce my obvious dehydration. Third problem resolved. But my eyes were displaying extreme nystagmus--fluttering back and forth uncontrollably from side de to side. It was so obvious that the doctor actually invited another doctor to come check it out--a textbook case, apparently. I think that was a key factor. By Thursday morning the doctor told me that the Physical Therapist was the next step in diagnosis.

The PT had me do a series of exercises, most of which focused (sorry!) on seeing how moving my head would affect this vertigo. Turns out, it didn't affect it very much at all. I could close my eyes and move my head in all sorts of ways, and the vertigo got neither better nor worse. If those tests HAD affected me, then it was likely I had small, loose particles in my ear canal. But apparently I didn't

So then she connected me to a set of VR goggles (that's what they looked like) and measured the movements in my eyes as she moved my head. And those findings indicated the problem in the left ear. So now we're treating this as an inflammation of the ear, affecting the nerves, and probably caused by a virus. I have no other symptoms. And as we have all learned over the past six weeks, ain't no such thing as an effective anti-viral drug for whatever ails you.

I have been able to walk a bit around town, but it takes all of my concentration to avoid turning walking into a contact sport. I need all my energy just to keep myself vertical and moving in one direction. But at this point, I'll take that over Wednesday morning!

A couple of additional thoughts:

1. I was enormously grateful that our local hospital, while treating Covid19 patients, was not overwhelmed by them. They had staff and space in the ER to treat me fully independently from Covid19 patients. Thank God. A reason the social distancing makes a difference.

2. I was completely impressed with my Physical Therapist. And so was my doctor. He fully trusted her diagnosis, and she was the one with the equipment and exercises that would determine the cause of all of this.

Hope you see you all out on the trail, sooner rather than later.
Check out our website and blog at: https://www.backpackthesierra.com/home
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Re: World upside down...and sideways

Postby Phil » Mon May 04, 2020 6:33 am

I'm really glad you're doing okay, Paul. Scary stuff. Actually, hospitals in our area aren't overwhelmed, they're laying people off because they're virtually empty, Covid-19 or otherwise.

I have a friend that suffered what sounds like the same things you describe. Same symptoms, same concerns, same tests, same rather vague diagnosis of an inner ear problem, etc. Vertigo kicked in and literally just floored him on a daily basis. He's been a severe migraine sufferer his whole life, and near as they were able to figure, a lot of it initially seemed to be stress and fatigue-induced (it came about during a time when he was doing the final prep for his son's massive and expensive wedding). He learned what worked for him and to avoid hard eye movements to his periphery. Who knows, though. Anyhow, with plenty of rest, and a few visits to his neurologist to evaluate him and tweak his meds around slightly, he was right as rain and out and about normally within about 2 months. So, if that's any indication at all, I think and hope you should be back out on the trails just in time for the mosquitoes to let up. Be better, and be safe and well.
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Re: World upside down...and sideways

Postby balzaccom » Mon May 04, 2020 7:44 pm

Thanks Phil. Taking it day by day...but I have a PT appointment tomorrow---and hoping that gets me moving in the right direction.
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Re: World upside down...and sideways

Postby balzaccom » Wed May 06, 2020 6:46 am

I now have a series of PT exercises for my eyes and ears. And I am doing them with great "discipline." Probably because I know I have a finite number of years left on this planet, and I don't want to spend them wandering around in a dizzy haze, worrying about whether I am going to topple over or not. (That will come soon enough.)

So my exercises now are to put a sticker on the wall at eye height and stare at it from an arm's length while moving my head from side to side quickly. When I move to the right, all is normal. When I move to the left, the whole world looks like its sheet feeding to the right. Which is disconcerting. But I can live with that. I may have to. And this exercise is teaching my brain to adjust.

Second exercise is to go stand in a corner with my feet tight together, arms folded. Balance there. If I get good at that, try it with my eyes closed. Or put one foot slightly in front of the other--you'd be amazed at how big a difference THAT makes.

And third one is to walk a straight line while moving my head to look at things from side to side, forcing my brain to adjust to the new me. That's fun. Disney should sell tickets.

I'd write more now, but I have to go do my exercises...
Check out our website and blog at: https://www.backpackthesierra.com/home
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Re: World upside down...and sideways

Postby Phil » Wed May 06, 2020 9:55 am

balzaccom wrote:When I move to the right, all is normal. When I move to the left, the whole world looks like its sheet feeding to the right.


Hmmmm. Sounds like a classic political problem. We've been seeing a lot of this lately, especially in the coastal regions.

My recommendation is, lie down, take a nap. Try to avoid ingesting any common household cleaning products for at least two weeks.
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Re: World upside down...and sideways

Postby balzaccom » Thu May 07, 2020 6:37 am

Good idea, Phil! LOL

Yvon Chouinard said "It's only an adventure when something goes wrong..." This is certainly an adventure!
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Re: World upside down...and sideways

Postby Grzldvt » Sun May 10, 2020 10:57 pm

WOW, since I have moved south I rarely come here anymore. Sorry to hear about your predicament. Sounds like things are beginning to improve for you. Hope all goes well
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Re: World upside down...and sideways

Postby balzaccom » Tue May 12, 2020 7:59 am

Thanks Grzzldvt.

Things are getting better. Still get disoriented (literally!) from time to time, but it's getting better...
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