Living with Vertigo

By Enid Hartwig

My first experience with vertigo occurred on July 23, 2009.  I’d had a very busy week as we had celebrated our daughter’s birthday two days before, and had entertained a large gathering of friends and family at our house.

I had gone to sleep but woke up around 1:30 A.M. and the room was spinning around me.  I really didn’t know what was happening to me and tried to get out of bed – the worst possible thing I could have done!  Almost immediately the sickness came over me and I just hollered for my husband, scaring the dickens out of him, to fetch me a pail.  Then it was two pails I needed.  I felt like I was going to die.  My husband insisted on phoning for an ambulance but by the time the emergency people arrived I was feeling somewhat better and really didn’t think I should go to the hospital.  After discussion with the attendants though, I did let them take me to Concordia Hospital.  Tests were done but nothing specific was discovered and I was advised to make an appointment with my own doctor, who would receive the results of the tests the hospital had performed.

I was diagnosed with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), which unlike Ménière’s Disease, is curable.  The problem was that I would have to get myself to the hospital or doctor’s office when an attack was occurring for the treatment to work.  How that could be accomplished when you are so sick I cannot imagine.  After a couple more attacks I saw the notice in the paper about the Ménière’s Support Group meeting later that month and decided I needed their help in dealing with the vertigo.  It was the best decision I could have made.  Our facilitator, Joanne Craig, gave me Karen Reimer’s card.  She is a physiotherapist who specializes in treating balance problems.  She performed a procedure on me that really helped for several months and I knew how to do this exercise at home whenever I felt any dizziness coming over me.

During this time I also took Gravol pills to quell the nausea.  The following year I experienced a few more episodes and did go to see Karen Reimer again.  At that time she described another manoeuvre which I do quite often.

It is now four years since I had my first attack and I am always aware of the possibility of it happening again.  2013 has been a very stressful summer for me and I have come close to having an attack, but have not had the terrible sickness.  When an attack does occur I find it very helpful if I can sit down and put my head down on the counter or table for 10 or 15 minutes, and  I try to get a Gravol pill to reduce the nausea.  It can also be beneficial to gaze up at the ceiling for several seconds.  I always end up with a terrible headache after these attacks and have to take Tylenol for relief.

I enjoy the Ménière’s Support Group meetings very much.  I am fortunate that I do not have trouble with my hearing, which seems to be a great problem for those who have Ménière’s Disease.  Going to the meetings and discussing our issues with each other is wonderful therapy and I thank those individuals who make this possible. Click here to learn more about BPPV on the Vestibular Disorders Association website.