sick woman in bed with vertigo

Expect the Unexpected… Like Vertigo

I had every intention of blogging several times a week once the lovely folks behind completed the site redesign. I even brought my iPad with me last weekend on a girls’ getaway (more on that awesomeness later) so that I could write a post or two about these final weeks of planning. But all of those plans went up in flames when I got walloped by my first bout of vertigo last Friday.

What the fuckety-fuck is vertigo, you might ask? Only the most unpleasant spinning sensation associated with being super drunk or hungover, but without any of the fun of getting to that point, for one thing. It is *not* that queasy rush one might get upon looking down from a tall height.

Things Start to Head Downhill

Needless to say, vertigo threw a wrench into my plans. I started feeling lightheaded shortly after a lovely massage and brief (like, 10 minutes) dip in the hot tub at the Chatham Bars Inn and thought that maybe my blood sugar was dropping because we were on the late side for lunch, and I’m a bit of a perpetual snacker at home (but I wasn’t nibbling away at much of anything that morning post-breakfast). I went outside and laid down with an apple and a glass of water while my friends finished getting changed, but it didn’t really help me feel much better.

Luckily, one of the friends I was with is a physician assistant in an emergency department, and although I initially thought she was being ridiculous (and was embarrassed as I felt like I was causing a bit of a scene, which I hated doing), she kept a close eye on me, helping to support me while walking and making sure I didn’t keel over as I was walking rather unsteadily. I slept on an Adirondack chair outside while the rest of the gang had lunch, as I was feeling both light-headed and nauseous, and then we headed back to our VRBO so I could rest for a bit.

Back at the rental house, I slept for a few hours and woke up with the realization that the room was spinning–that that was why I was feeling so shaky and wobbly–and a quick Google search told me that I was likely experiencing vertigo. Right about then, my friend came in to check on me and said that she had come to the same conclusion on her own, and that she was worried about the potential risk of stroke, given that I have a history of high blood pressure (family history; it never returned to normal after pregnancy, and now I take a low dose to medication to keep it in check), which feels totally lame at 40. She tried performing the Epley Maneuver on me, which can help to reverse the effects of vertigo, but it was unsuccessful.

Things Get Even Worse

Long story short, we all ended up spending Friday evening in the emergency department of Cape Cod Hospital, where it was determined that (thankfully!) I was not having a stroke but was just experiencing the misery of BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo).

On the plus side, I was not the patient having a raging infected abscess surgically drained from her arm, screaming and swearing all the way through the procedure. (She was in the next room). Nor was I the one screaming, “Give me some fucking Motrin!” at the top of my lungs, ad nauseam. (She was down the hall from me. Also, if one just wanted Motrin, maybe, say, skip the ER and just go to the drugstore…?) And, if we’re really reaching here, I’d even say that I had a decent nap in the MRI machine.

On the down side, I had to skip the chartered sail that had been scheduled for Saturday and cut back on our planned beach walks, as well as miss out on some delicious meals and all alcohol after Thursday evening. Gah. So much for a rager of a girls’ weekend! (Just kidding–these weekends are always tame. Lots of catching up on life over wine, massages, hikes–and always committing to meeting up again the next year, which I love.

Vertigo Feels Even Worse in the Air

I made it home on Sunday evening (never before have I been so grateful for a direct flight and for having multiple barf bags in hand) in time to celebrate Henry’s 10th birthday, and then promptly passed out for many hours. On Monday morning, I successfully argued my way into seeing my GP (whose front desk staff are very effective guardians of her schedule) who prescribed me what I hope is a sufficient supply of meclizine and Valium to help me through this episode and any future ones. She also recommended that I try the Foster Half Somersault Maneuver once I was back home, which I think ultimately may have helped a bit.

The Road to Recovery

The week was mostly a blur. I was grateful to have not had much on the calendar to begin with, but I canceled what little there was and mostly just slept and waited for the spinning to stop and for me to stop needing to hold onto furniture to make it across a room. I couldn’t drive since I couldn’t see straight, but luckily Sam didn’t have any business travel and our ever-cheerful and reliable au pair jumped in to take over whatever she could. And of course, our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Auggie, stayed by my side throughout; he was probably the happiest about my being in bed all week. Finally, by Friday midday–a full week after vertigo first hit–I was feeling about 90% better.

sick woman in bed with vertigo lying with dog on chest
Not the most skilled home nurse one could ask for, but certainly the most snuggly

Although it was a week of misery with my eyes, brain, and body all confused about what was or was not moving, I am grateful that it hit me for the first time while I was in the States (though sad that it had to happen on one of my favorite weekends of the year with three of my college besties)–and even more grateful that one of my companions happens to be a skilled medical professional.

During my lowest moments when I felt terribly nauseous and I couldn’t make the spinning stop, I had moments where I questioned if I should give up entirely on the plans for this trip. If this had come upon me for the first time while traveling solo with the kids, I don’t know what I would have done. I’m sure this comes down to just going with one’s gut and figuring it out in the moment, but if I were the only adult (and thus the only driver), that would have been very frightening. Ben (age 12) and I have already talked about how we might handle the situation if this were to happen again while abroad, as it is so incapacitating and came on so quickly. Luckily, I have medication for it now and hope that I will recognize the signs of it, should it recur. Beyond that, I’m just hoping that the majority of the unexpected surprises on our trip will be good ones.


Hey there! I’m Melanie. Originally from Brooklyn, home is now Charleston, SC--or wherever my three kids and husband are. Our family gap year will take us around the world, touching down on six continents over 12 months.
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