Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Imbalance update

It's eleven months since this so-called dizziness hit me... and finally, last week, I got to see the Motion and Balance folks at the local rehabilitation hospital to start my treatment.

I guess the word dizziness might not be the right one to describe my symptoms, though there are moments when I'm definitely feeling spinny. It's more like my brain can't process my surroundings fast enough when I'm moving through my environment, making me feel unsteady on my feet. There's a moment's lag between what I see and how I react to it, a "slippage" of sorts, that has caused me to bump into a few walls here and there, and to need a supportive arm when I walk through areas that are highly visually stimulating, just because I can't take it all in and walk in a straight line.

The balance system is an amazing thing. Our bodies rely on three kinds of sensory input to help us stay upright: our muscles,which tell us about the surfaces on which we walk; our vision, which gives us information about our environmental terrain; and our inner ear, which has three semicircular canals that give us a sense of direction and uprightness, if I can call it that.

On Friday, I spent seven hours with Hazel, one of the women who does vestibular rehab at the Glenrose, and we went through my issues with a fine tooth comb. It took an hour and a half for Hazel to hear my story and sort out my symptoms, which seem to indicate that there has been some damage to the horizontal semi-circular canals in my ears. Once that was determined, we began to do some tests and exercises to see how I had been affected, and what I could do to compensate for my inner ear damage.

We spent a fair bit of time walking the hallways at the Centre for Motion and Balance with me looking up and down, side to side, and reporting on how different ways of walking and turning made me feel (nauseous at times). Then Hazel took me to "The Big Machine," a fancy gadget designed by a former NASA scientist who once helped Apollo astronauts regain their "earth legs" after being in zero gravity on space missions. I was buckled into a parachute harness and hooked into the "Balance Manager," where I stood on the machine's floor panels, which shifted to test my balance. "Are my eyes playing tricks on me, or is the front wall moving?" I asked Hazel. She laughed and explained that it was.

After that, Hazel hooked me up to a computer with a fancy hat on my head. The hat helped the computer determine my head movements, and I did an eye test of sorts -- which indicated that my ability to see and process things as I turn my head has taken a hit. I know that from experience -- visiting a visually stimulating place like a grocery store has been a real challenge for the past eleven months, probably because my brain has a hard time keeping up with my eyes. That slippage thing again.

So the point of the whole day was to come up with a plan for rehabilitation -- which Hazel and I did. I now have two hours worth of exercises to do each day, 30 or 60 seconds at a time. Walking figure eights in my kitchen, focusing my eyes on things on opposite sides of the room, stuff like that. The activities make me feel very unbalanced for now, even queasy, but for the next six weeks, I need to stick to the program so that my wonderful nervous system can build new pathways around the damage from last October, however it was caused. The jury is still out on whether this might be the start of diabetic autonomic neuropathy, but I'll see my specialist in a month and ask him about it. Spare prayers and/or fingers crossed for me, if you can!

And now, off to my exercises... look up, look down, look up...

1 comment:

  1. That is so awesome! I need to do that someday, but I am still in denial. Hope that you get this figured out!


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