Sometimes, miracle cures are elementary
Posted 5/15/18 (Tue)
By Steve Andrist
I may have just turned 64, but I have the hearing of a 7-year-old.
The audiologist in Bismarck told me so a couple of months back when they were trying to figure out if some inner ear issue had caused me to be slightly off in the head.
The better half had lorded that I didn’t need medical professionals to reach that diagnosis. But this issue isn’t cognitive as much as it is a feeling as if I’ve had one too many cold ones without having had the pleasure of even one. And the feeling has been present pretty much 24/7 since Aug. 21, the day of the solar eclipse.
Last week the world-famous Mayo Clinic confirmed that my hearing is as sharp as a youngster who’s never been to a rock concert or a speedway.
Along the way they put me through the wringer.
There was the transporter test, where they harnessed me up in a machine that flashed light patterns and made me feel like my next words should be, “Beam me up, Scotty.”
While the harness was still cinched up, they pointed out that my feet were placed on moveable platforms, which they tilted, raised and lowered just to see if I could keep my balance.
Suffice it to say, the harness was necessary.
Then they strapped me into a chair, turned out the lights in the space capsule-like room where it sits, and started spinning and rotating me as if they were trying to make me sick to my stomach.
And finally there was the ear waterboarding, where they sprayed 106-degree water into my ears for 30 seconds at a pop just to measure how my eyes and ears would respond.
They did all this, and several other tests, in hopes of determining what’s wrong with my vestibular system, in hopes of helping me to no longer feel like I’ve perpetually had one too many, and in hopes of eliminating the fatigue that causes me to indulge in two-a-day naps.
Yes, you read that right. I don’t want to be taking naps.
Funny how a mid-day siesta or two always sounds so inviting – until you feel like you’d have trouble getting through the day without them.
The vestibular system includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that help control balance and eye movements.
For all these months, neurologists and otolaryngologists and internists and physical therapists and neuro-optometrists and audiologists had surmised that a virus in my left inner ear had done something to a nerve to make me a vestibular mess.
Trouble is, none of them really knew what to do about it.
They tried therapy and prisms in the lenses of my glasses, but mostly just hope that whatever nerve was damaged would heal up or regenerate.
Give it time, they said, and it should clear up.
It didn’t. So I enrolled in the dizzy and balance program at Mayo, and 60 days later we were on the way to Rochester in search of a miracle cure.
There, five of the world’s best did all their testing and analyzing and came to an unexpected conclusion. My vestibular system is working tip-top, A-OK.
They all agreed that something had happened to me way back when, though it wasn’t the eclipse.
Whatever it was that caused my disequilibrium, they believe, caused my body to respond by doing all its normal functions in a defensive way to avoid severe dizziness or falls.
My body developed its own defensive way to walk, sit, stand, turn, bend and otherwise move. They identified that I’m not distributing my weight equally, I’m often back on my heels, my feet aren’t rocking heel to toe like they should, and as a result my knees are typically locked and my glutes are often clenched and I’m using all too much energy doing the things that a body usually does relaxed and reflexively.
The cure, they’re convinced, is in doing exercises that will teach my body to get back to moving the way it used to and is still supposed to.
Maybe a sleep study, they suggested, or acupuncture if I feel like it. But basically, if I relearn how to do things that once came naturally, I should be much better in four to eight weeks.
What amazing bodies we occupy. And what amazing people who understand them.