Mexico Cruise Trip – Part 2

In Part 1 of my Mexico cruise, I had mentioned that there were 2 things that were memorable about this trip. The second thing memorable is that I have been sick ever since that trip.

The Carnival cruise ship I went on had some kind of a virus as many people were ill including my husband and son. I, however, did not get sick.

After the cruise ended, I headed back to work. I was working for the IT call center at my company when I felt a little lightheaded. Now — at a call center, your breaks and lunch are scheduled. You just can’t leave your desk without special permission. But that’s exactly what I did.

My dizziness was getting worse and I started to perspire. I closed my “cue” so that no calls would be directed to me. Standing up, I saw the bathroom door just ahead and managed to get inside. “Maybe I have the flu” I told myself. I went into a bathroom stall and just sat there for a little while. I came out and hung onto the wall. “What is this?” I said to no one in particular then slumped to the floor.

Shortly thereafter, a co-worker came to the bathroom and saw me on the floor. She quickly asked what was wrong. “I don’t know, I don’t know,” I muttered. She asked if there was anything she could get me. I asked for water. She left and came back with water and my supervisor.

My head was spinning — my heart racing — my eyes could not focus and I was perspiring. My supervisor asked if I needed an ambulance but I don’t remember responding. Quickly though medics were there. They asked questions but I couldn’t respond. They tried to help me get up but I couldn’t stand.

Finally two strong medics carried me onto the stretcher that was waiting for me and strapped me down. My co-workers were all lined up with concern on their faces as I was wheeled away.

My husband had been called and when I arrived at the emergency room he was already there. They rushed me into a room where they started giving me tests — blood work, EKG, CAT scan. The ER doctor said to me “Do you understand what I’m saying?” Yes, I told him. I couldn’t focus on anything. He asked me to look at him but I couldn’t see him. Then I blacked out. It wasn’t for very long — just enough to get the ER doctor very nervous. When I came to, I felt his hand cross my cheek to wake me.

A few hours later, after the tests found nothing wrong, they released me. The diagnosis was labrynthitis. I lay in bed the rest of the day. The TV sounded like it was blaring so my family turned it down very low. This “amplification” problem continued for a couple of years.

For the next 2-3 months, I could barely walk. In order for me to have a sense of being balanced, I had to touch the wall. A few times, my family and I were sitting in the living room and I got up to go to the bathroom. As I stood and took my first few steps, I started walking in a circle. My balance was all screwed up.

My employer’s health department asked me to call social security to see if I would be eligible for social security disability. “No” came the reply. As long as I could dress myself I was not eligible. I thought how ironic it was that I couldn’t walk without touching a wall most of the time and there were people I knew who walked around “normal” and were on disability.

I went back to work after a few weeks but the fluorescent lights sent me into a whirl of dizziness. Back home I went.  Eventually, they turned the fluorescent lights around my desk off. My immediate supervisor agreed to let me work “whatever hours you can.” Some days I would work 3 and others I could work 8. Each day was different.

Eventually, my supervisor’s manager met with me and told me that they needed a commitment from me on how many hours I could work. I explained that I couldn’t do that. The doctor’s note also stated that I needed flexibility. The reply was “We need a commitment or you could be fired for not adhering to the schedule.” Great … so much for compassion.

At this point, I had been diagnosed with different things: labrynthitis, vestibulitis, basilar artery migraine. They had ruled out multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, and everything else.

Still — I was not well. I drove myself to church every week only to have to be driven back most of the time. A few minutes before the dizziness started, I could sense it “coming on” which gave me time to pull over if I was driving. The people at church always knew when I would going to have an episode. I would get up and try to make my way to the back of the church. I always had someone come help me and take me home.

I was forced to agree to work a 4 hour day. When I was not able to come in or if I had to leave early, I just did it. It was ironic that they forced me to work a set number of hours as during one of our weekly meetings, my supervisor pulled out a report that showed that I was producing more than a full-time employee in my work group.

Then a miracle occurred. The company offered voluntary lay-off. I was one of the first to accept it. The stress of not knowing whether I was going to be fired was too much for me to take.

I eventually was seen by a specialist at the University of Washington. He ran some tests on me and couldn’t find anything for a few months. One day, thank God, I went in while not feeling well. The doctor put me on a machine that you stand on while it moved and I had no balance. When the test was over he said to me “You indeed have a problem.”

His diagnosis was cochlear deficit disorder. He said that I had a lot of hearing loss in one ear and the other ear also had some hearing loss. The doctor told me that he could do surgery to correct this but there was only a 30-40% chance that it would work. And, if it didn’t work, I would need to be in therapy for awhile as I would need to re-learn how to walk again as only part of my body would be balanced.

“No, thank you” I told him. I didn’t want to take the risk of losing what little balance I had left.

This all started in 1997 and I still have visual problems — I always have a sensation of things moving very slowly. It’s been a about 5 years since I’ve had a bad episode of dizziness.

Currently, my hearing loss is about the same. I watch people’s lips to “hear” what they are saying but sometimes I miss the mark. Recently, I was sent a video by my son who is starting to understand why what I hear is not what is being said. It happens more often than not. This video is a big revelation to those of us who are hard of hearing. (Click below to see it — quite a revelation)

The McGurk Effect



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