The holidays are fading into memory as “normal” life resumes for many. Around our house, they were even quieter than usual as my partner BA developed a nasty cold around Christmas. She wasn’t terribly ill, just tired and not feeling well. By New Year’s Day she was feeling better and thinking that the next day she would pay a visit to our nearby recreation center and get started on some light exercise. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Want to make the Gods laugh? Tell them your plans!” It certainly applies here.
As is usual in our household, we went to bed around nine on Jan 1. Around midnight, BA awakened needing the toilet. Normal so far. She got up, felt a little woozy and carefully meandered the 20 feet to the bathroom. Less than a minute later, she was so dizzy, spinning and disoriented that all she could manage was to slide onto the floor from the toilet. Eventually she was able to rouse my soundly sleeping self (smart woman, when calling didn’t work, she slammed cabinet doors). I came to her aid, and it soon became clear that we needed help. She was having a true attack of vertigo, with all the sickness that comes with it, and couldn’t sit up or move at all. And it was cold on that bathroom floor, even with an extra blanket. After a brief discussion, I called 911.
The troops arrived quietly, as I had told the dispatcher that while we needed help and transport, BA was stable. A policeman arrived first, followed by two sets of firemen/paramedics. They all trooped upstairs, assessed things and were able to load BA onto a “chair” that was designed to move folks down stairs safely and efficiently. Down the stairs, out the front door and onto a gurney and into the ambulance she went. I closed up the house, changed into attire a bit more suited to hanging about an ER, rounded up BA’s insurance information, etc, along with a few belongings I thought she might want and followed the parade to the hospital.
By the time I arrived, BA was in an exam room, had had two doses of magic anti-nausea medication and IV fluids were running. The ER doctor was examining her and taking a history, and I could fill in gaps in history that were difficult for someone feeling terribly ill. While I’m retired from my family practice career, I’m still pretty fluent in the lingo. Meds were given, with little effect, tests were done, all normal, and BA continued to be weak and spinning and unable to sit or stand. Can’t go home that way. Carrying a provisional diagnosis of vestibular neuritis, up to the observation unit we went.
BA was sleepy and able to nap, so I went home, straightened up the house and then to my office where I worked on rescheduling that day’s clients. Everything got done. My clients were gracious and accommodating about making change on short notice. Thank you.
Back at the hospital, BA was awake, and a wee bit better, but still unable to move beyond a supported sit in the bed. Nurses provided bedside care and Physical Therapy came to call, doing more tests and confirming that BA indeed had vestibular neuritis. The physical therapist communicated her findings to the hospital doc, who added steroids (the big gun anti inflammatory). We agreed that spending the night at the hospital was in order as she could not yet stand or move out of the bed. We ordered her a dinner, and once eaten, I went home, scrambled an egg for my own dinner and crashed.
By the next morning, everyone was feeling better. I awakened to a long text from BA that she had slept well and a kind nurses aide had brewed her fresh coffee upon awakening. Simple pleasures. Improvement was happening. By the time I got to the hospital that morning, BA had had breakfast and was actually sitting up and balancing on the side of her bed. Still dizzy, but massively improved. Our friend the physical therapist soon arrived and with her help and the use of a walker for balance, she got to and from the toilet. Another important function recovered. Then we toured the hospital floor with the walker and practiced climbing a few steps. The PT did a lot of teaching, and taught BA exercises to help her vestibular system recover.
I went out to run a few errands, including picking up a loaner walker from a nearby senior center (5 bucks a month, quite the deal). By that time the hospital doc had been to visit. He was helpful and particularly sympathetic as his wife had had the same problem a month ago. It was enlightening for BA to realize this was a condition that hits at any age (young doc) and helpful to recognize that it clears up pretty well. So home we went, with medications and exercises and followup appointments scheduled.
We are now starting the third full day at home and BA is feeling so much better. She’s walking carefully, but not needing the walker inside the house. She’s managing her own medicines and participating more in household activities. Chores aren’t always fun, but it’s surprisingly nice to be able to do them.
At this point, I am very grateful. For emergency services that come when called, a hospital with caring, attentive and knowledgeable personnel, from doctors, nurses, physical therapists and pharmacists to aides and food service. You all made it easier and helped with a frightening and uncertain circumstance. Thank you.
And to our wonderful bodies that do heal and repair. That we can get so sick so quickly is startling and that recovery happens as well continues to amaze me, even after many years of living and being a physician. Happy New Year to us All.