Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Art of Being a Connoisseur of PT...and My Unexpected Summer

I'm guessing a few of you immediately assumed that the "PT" I was referring to is Pastor Todd, as he was fondly called at Open Door Fellowship. Ah, but no, I'm talking physical therapy.

So what do you think it takes to be such a connoisseur of physical therapy?

Let me provide a few of the high points in my credentials:
1) Car accident/rear ended on my way to class my senior year of college (yep, the guy who hit me - no insurance - totaled a sweet, red 1961 VW bug). Result: a lot of neck and back damage and years of physical therapy.
2) Thrown from a horse in Montana. Result: broken back and yes, more than a year of physical therapy.
3) Fell down two stairs into garage (seriously!). Result: severely sprained ankle and a couple months physical therapy.

Which brings me to the summer of 2013. I've spent a lot of it on the couch. Unfortunately.

And yesterday I found myself again with a physical therapist. Referred by my Head and Neck Surgeon (those folks must have been feeling bad about how important they sounded since they used to be call Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists). Anyway, I've spend the summer on a journey of sorts, not a comfortable one at all I might add, to get answers to why I have felt so miserable.

I suspect a few of you I know can totally relate. Mystery symptoms. First you ignore them. I thought I had some cold virus, menopause or exhaustion-thing going all at the same time. Then the dizziness, mental zaps, fatigue, blurry vision, body shocks, and on and on. I've felt like a nut trying to describe how I feel to doctors. The lexicon isn't great when it comes to dizzy.

My summer of 2013 journey led me to an evening brain MRI up in (Lafayette) to rule out multiple sclerosis, stroke and brain tumor. All clear! Which then led me to the Head and Neck Surgery department downtown with a side trip to Audiology. Yep, my hearing is great and no holes in my eardrums or fluid in my ear so I intend to continue to turn the volume up on my to music -- I love it loud.

It's a process of narrowing and eliminating more than identifying. Sometimes that is how life's difficulties are - you have to eliminate what it isn't before you can land on what it is.

So are you still interested? Actually I'm getting bored with the topic, except I have to live with myself, in this body that is simply not cooperating.

Okay, back to the ENT (sorry I just can't do this surgeon thing). She got it. I was talking her language. And yes, I hugged she when I left.

While she couldn't be positive without more tests, it sounds  like inner ear which of course makes total sense based on the symptoms. It's just there isn't anything much more specific than that. We are just going with inner ear before she hands me off to the neurologist for investigation into vestibular migraine. I hate the word migraine so I am sticking with inner ear.

And that led me to the physical therapist yesterday and a nice guy named Scott at Kaiser's Skyline PT offices...downtown again (apparently everything related to whatever is going on requires a 45 - 1.5 hour drive to get there!).  He spent an hour making me nauseous. And it was a good thing.

First, I had no idea after years of back rehab that these physical therapists also rehab inner ears. Well some do. Kind of made me want to laugh. I prefer back massages, just to be clear. But now Scott has allowed me to add to my resume of physical therapy experiences.

So it was a bit too easy for him to get me off balance, spinning and reaching for a bucket. Again, while he doesn't know precisely why or how... he pretty sure I don't need any more tests ... inner ear problem. He's also pretty sure it's not vestibular migraine (I like him alot). And he sent me home with 'phase one' exercises for my brain/inner ear combo. Basically I do these every day until they no long make me sick, dizzy or visually unfocused. Fun. Then he'll give me tougher exercises, and so on.

It could take up to a year to "fix" this. But at least I know where the damage is and that it can be fixed. That's a hopeful place for someone who has virtually stopped driving and doing much of anything. My introvert tendencies are in full display - just not feeling super social this summer.

But the really bad news was delivered at the very end of my session with Scott. He recommended some dietary changes to help with the symptoms - no caffeine (coffee!), no salt (as in don't touch a shaker and no processed foods with salt), no chocolate (enough said).

If I wasn't depressed before he just sent me over the ledge. So which do you think I am mourning most? Yep, it's the coffee.

So if you made it to the end of my tale, you get a gold star in my book.


  1. No coffee? You know you have my heartfelt sympathy!

    The part I like the most? The big NO to MS, brain tumor, and stroke. Hallelujah!

    Prayers coming from me for thee.

    Much love,

  2. Thanks Di. Working at keeping my sense of humor and soldiering on. And of course, not pucking in the process.

    1. That would be puking. Apparently pucking is a hockey thing. :)