I don’t think I’ve spoken on the subject before. I think I am doing so now out of frustration, and perhaps to explain why I have been inconsistent in my blogging. I don’t want people to think I am flaky for coming and going, or that I don’t take this seriously, because, while it’s obviously not “serious”, it is. Does that make sense? I think maybe as bloggers yourselves, you’ll understand what I mean. My mind is a little foggy at the moment, so maybe I am not making as much sense as I think I am or need to.
Cutting to the chase…
Nineteen months ago, 1 week before driving from Dallas, Texas to Southern California so the Brit could start his new and amazing job, I got a flu. I was sick enough to miss work, which hardly ever happened, ever. The last time I had been that sick was several years earlier with a flu. That time lasted a week and then I was back to normal.
I was feeling “just well enough” on the day we had to leave Texas. Since we HAD to be in Cali by a certain date, it didn’t matter, really. I was taught in Catholic school that you push yourself. “Suck it up cupcake” is my mantra. My mother is Italian, my father is Scottish-descended from Viking. I am from tough stock!
It took 2 long days (18 hour days) to make the drive, and by the time we arrived, I wasn’t feeling too good.
I remember getting into our corporate temp housing on Sunday afternoon and getting groceries from the market down the street. On Monday we met the movers at the storage unit and I was standing in the So-cal August sun sweating and holding on to the car for the spinning in my head, a fake smile plastered on my face, hoping no one would notice I looked totally stoned out of my mind. At least, I was afraid I looked stoned. That’s the last thing I recall with any certainty for several days. I vaguely remember throwing up a lot.
By the end of the week, The Brit was sufficiently scared for my feverish self and got a friend to help take me to the urgent clinic. Since we were in a 3rd floor apartment with no elevator, he couldn’t have gotten me anywhere any sooner. I think that was a Friday. I was well enough to lift my head from the pillow long enough to wish I hadn’t. Diagnosis: virus. Possibly Echovirus or Coxsackievirus.
Considering that my OCD compels me to wash my hands upwards of 30 times a day (friends will say more than 50 times), both of these diagnoses were shocking. However, working as a retail merchandiser I was exposed to a lot of germs in the general public. I wore gloves a lot of the time, but not always when I did books (I merch’ed music CDs and books). ALWAYS when I did music. A young clerk once asked me why I wore gloves, so I showed her my latex-covered hands. After that, I noticed she, along with with several clerks wore gloves doing the music. By the time I orgainsed A through C the gloves would be filthy. I took hand-wash breaks like most people take smoke breaks and changed the gloves at least once in a work day. Think on that next time you go to a store to buy a CD! I saw people sneeze or cough into their hands and then go back to pawing through the music. *cringe* You have no idea how many times I had to restrain myself from smacking a customer. I always wore gloves to do children’s books, too, because I had seen too many mothers hand their little darlings a book from the shelf only to have said tot chew on the book, or pick their noses as they looked at the book… and gods know what grubbiness was already on the hands of a child whose parent would let that happen. Don’t get me started on the evil thoughts that went out to those women!
But for regular books, I trusted that people would be more careful.
Yes, I am convinced I got the virus from work. I had a particularly unclean store that I serviced, and I am sure it came from there. There were several occasions I had to claim out books for things being spilled on them. It sure as heck didn’t come from my own house, so that leaves anything from the public. Shopping? Maybe. Weekly, sometimes twice weekly direct contact with merchandise in a store known to be less than clean? My doughnut is on that one. I can’t prove it, of course. Just be warned about shopping.
I was extremely sick for 4 months, very sick for 2 more, and still suffering from all kinds of issues now. I have been to doctors more in these past months than I have in the past 20 years altogether. My condition was initially ignored except to diagnose me with labrynthitis because blood tests showed I was dangerously anemic. I always have been, so move along doc. The first 2 docs fixated on the blood counts, blaming anemia for everything. I decided I wasn’t going to see any more doctors because they were useless. Medicine has been on my crap list for many years. That’s a subject for another article. The Brit made me find another doctor and try one more time, being more forceful with this one. Fine. When this one turns out to be a twit, too, I can be more justified in saying I TOLD YOU SO!
Of course, she freaked out when she saw my blood lab results. *sigh* I go every month for blood work, and every month I get the doctor’s freak out. I can’t take iron, though we’re trying something else, now.
A conversation with my genius cousin led me to ask for a neurology referral. I’d been dizzy and having vertigo constantly for over a year and no one bothered to send me for neuro-consult. Yeh. I know. I DID have an MRI, but the doc who ordered it only ordered a partial and was only looking for tumor or aneurysm. I insisted on the consult with the GP and got an ENT and an audiology appointment thrown in for good measure. Oh, yeh. I have had hearing loss since the virus, too.
Neurologist diagnosis: labrynthitis with resultant vertigo, and hearing loss due to brain damage.
This doctor really listened to me- a first, and pleasant surprise. She had looked over my records before I went to see her, did an eval, and talked to me at length before making her decision.
The virus led to a bacteria in the deepest part of my inner ear which ate away at a little bit of my brain, disrupting the neuro-pathways that lead from my ear to the part of my brain that interprets what the mechanics of the ear have picked up. My ears work properly. My brain doesn’t always. My balance is disrupted. I have vertigo when I change the position of my head in any direction, and a sense of vague constant motion all the time. I fall down and bump into things
more than usual now and again from the vertigo. Sometimes I hear fine. Other times, I don’t hear sounds, or what people say to me sounds like they are speaking a foreign language. I have to stare at people when they talk to me to try and focus. Sometimes it helps, but not always. It’s frustrating to ask people to repeat themselves so much, and there are times I just don’t even want to speak to anyone. Telephone is really hard. The hearing won’t get better. Like diamonds, the dizzy is forever. (Can I blame that terrible joke on the brain damage, please?)
My non-sound comprehension and concentration have been affected, too. Words don’t always come to me as readily as they used to. Even my spelling has gone awry. Friends used to call me the human dictionary because my spelling was impeccable. Now I have to stop and think, or even look up words like impeccable. Thank goodness for the spellchecker! When reading, something I have done every day for the whole of my life, I find myself turning pages with no clue of what I’ve just read.
I have good days and not so good. I push myself. The damage is permanent. All of it. They are doing therapy, consisting of exercises that make me dizzy, to help my brain accommodate for the imbalance it is interpreting. It makes sense if you really think about. It kind of goes back to the pushing oneself thing. The hope is that it will help me recover faster from an episode, and perhaps other parts of my brain can take over to pick up some of the slack. I will always have vertigo, always be perpetually dizzy. My concentration might improve.
Last night, The Brit dragged me off to the urgent clinic because I’ve had a flu for 2 days with symptoms very like that one I had 19 months ago. They are treating me for virus on the “better safe than sorry” theory. You only have 72 hours to treat a virus. The brain damage from “That Damnable Virus” was done in the first couple of weeks. Even if I hadn’t been treated for virus in the first 72 hours, antibiotics within those first weeks could have stopped the damage. My body has to fight the virus I have, but the medicine they gave me last night will stop it from reproducing so I don’t get overwhelmed by it. Again.
I am the last person to run to the doctor for anything, but I have learned the hard way to take flu more seriously. You never know what germies are lurking.
It has taken me 2 hours to write this, 4 days to publish it because I couldn’t remember how to get a picture into a post, and I wonder how many mistakes I will see after I hit publish. *LOL* I was having a not so good day. But today is better!