Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Mortal Dangers of Vacuuming

I am pretty sure I am not just "dizzy". I have: "Benign Paroxysmal Postitional Vertigo". In interest of time and space, and reader fatigue, I will refer to my malady as BPPV. When my nurse friend heard my symptoms, she sent me an article on BPPV.
"Do you think you might have this?" she asked.

 The article was highly illuminating. Basically, BPPV occurs when an otolithic crystal in the vestibular apparatus of the cochlear structures dislodges and becomes relocated against a nerve, sending impulses of movement when movement is actually not happening. Now, for those of you not in med school, I will give you the low down on BPPV.  We detect our body position and thus are able to balance, walk in a way not reminiscent of drunken sailors, and know where our head is because of tiny crystals that balance atop little hairs in our inner ear. When our head moves, the crystals are pulled towards gravity, bending those little hairs, and sending nerve impulses to our brain that tell us, "Danger- she is heading for the chocolate fudge brownies again!" Depending on which way the hairs move, we can tell which way we are moving. This is a subconscious, involuntary activity that most of us don't even know we have...until it goes awry, like in my case. Either from head trauma, or in some cases, aging, which is of course not possible in my case, those little crystals fall off their motion detecting pedestal and roll around till they get stuck against a nerve. Then they tell the head that it is moving when it is not. The world flicks back and forth, and round and round, and we describe ourselves as "dizzy".

The good news is that the crystals eventually (usually) roll away from the nerve, and symptoms subside. And even better, in severe cases, a single session of Physical Therapy and then a week or so of careful head positioning can completely relieve the symptoms in 75% of victims. The trauma that dislodged the crystal may have been in the distant past, and symptoms come and go as the crystal rolls to a less than ideal place in the labyrinth of nerves.  The classic test for it is lying the patient down, turning the head, and if the eyeballs flick back and forth like windshield wipers, and the patient clutches the bed while crying out, "Tsunami!", then BPPV is conclusive. Since I performed the test on myself, being a highly trained Occupational Therapist, I now am pretty sure this is the fancy cause of my dizziness.With aging, those crystals and hairs deteriorate, and thus, many older folk find their balance compromised, but they don't usually have the severe symptoms I had. Head trauma is more often the likely culprit.

Since I am not old, at least not by biblical standards, I presume my crystal got dislodged during my concussion a few years back. 
"Concussion?" asked sister Wendy, when I relayed my diagnosis to her.

I realized this is an important alert that should have been posted on my blog, filled with safety tips for the neurotic and anxiety ridden friends that follow me. Vacuuming caused my concussion, and should never be attempted by anyone without proper safety gear and precautions. Unless you want to end up like me, with BPPV, and a head that is always a foot ahead of the rest of your body, I urge you to read the following information carefully.

I, like most people, had begun vacuuming the living room with little concern for protective armor before engaging in this activity. I had come to the corner of the living room and noticed spider webs inside the window. Wanting to be as efficient as possible, I did not pause in my vacuuming, but with one hand deftly wiggled the window open, forgetting the pointy, heavy, crystal prism that sat on the windowsill. Unaware of the impending danger, I was stooped over vacuuming the spider webs in the corner of the floor as I forced open the sticky window. With no warning, the heavy, pointy crystal prism clanked down on my head with surprising brutal velocity. I was instantly felled. Flattened, I regained consciousness a few seconds later, with a dent in my skull and a throbbing headache. I had the classic symptoms of concussion- wailing, nausea, headache, and crossed eyes. Little did I know that the dangerous activity of vacuum cleaning would lead me down the dizzying road to BVVP.

Not being able to walk a straight path and staggering is a good symbol to meditate on. Psalm 107 mentions staggering and stumbling several times. In that Psalm, the inability to find and stay on a straight path stemmed from rebelliousness, disobedience, despising God, sin, fear, lack of faith, lack of trust, and quaking in the face of trials. The unfaithful stumbled at least as much as we unfortunates with BVVP do. But then, He also provided a simple cure. When humbled, flattened, unable to rise on their own, they cried out to God. And in a single session, He rolled away the crystal of affliction, and set them upright, on steady feet, on a straight and hopeful path again. God is so dizzyingly obvious in the symbols of life.

Psalm 107:26-28, 39-43

26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
   in their peril their courage melted away.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
   they were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
   and he brought them out of their distress.
 39 Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled
   by oppression, calamity and sorrow;
40 he who pours contempt on nobles
   made them wander in a trackless waste.
41 But he lifted the needy out of their affliction
   and increased their families like flocks.
42 The upright see and rejoice,
   but all the wicked shut their mouths.
 43 Let the one who is wise heed these things
   and ponder the loving deeds of the LORD.

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