The way I see things –
“In the Balance “ is a Dateline NBC examination of the damaging effects the antibiotic, Gentamicin,which can produce devastating effects to the inner ear’s vestibular system. Though ‘dizziness’ can be appreciated in part by most, very few can possibly understand any description short of an actual video/visual presentation. More difficult than the ambulation is what is called ‘oscillopsia,’ which gives the very persistent and dramatic effect of constant very fast movement, similar to a flourescent light as it is burning out.
The first 10 seconds of the video provides the necessary visual simulation to get an idea. Most of what is simulated in this presentation demonstrates visibility during the daytime, when light allows visual markers. Dim lights and darkness amplify these effects to a point that it is impossible to attempt navigation without visual ‘focal points’ for reference.
This vision never improves: it requires constant compensation during movement of any type, including heart beat, breathing and the vibrational interruptions when there is peripheral movement or the simple vibrations of one walking nearby.
At all times, for any activity which requires steady eyesight (reading, computer activity, etc.), the head must be rigidly fixed for visual stability.
Nearly twenty years into this, I have progressed to the level of being able to stand alone for 17 seconds and walking the perimeters of rooms, where furniture and walls are within reach. This is called ‘surface dependence.’ Although I know that normal activities were a natural part of life before vestibular damage, this has become so completely foreign to me that I marvel seeing someone can walk across a room without assistance.
Appearances are enormously deceiving: one looks healthy in most aspects and there is little evidence of this dramatic and persistent reality. For this reason a support group was formed by former flight attendant, Lynn Brown of Birmingham, Alabama. Lynn was very concerned that she would be considered inebriated and denied boarding for her week long stay at our home. (The timing of our week together was contingent upon new furniture arriving: every chair must have arms, or we fall off).
While Lynn and I collaborated for several months in the initial planning stages of a gentamicin/vestibular related support group, Wobblers Anonymous, Lynn has remarkably and nearly single-handedly brought hope, understanding and education to thousands.
A free ebook, Terra Infirma, A Life Unbalanced, by Anna Jean Mallison is available, for online reading. Ms. Mallison’s descriptions are both accurate and though challenging. The cover design is excellent, but is a still shot: movement or weather conditions greatly accentuate the actual effect.
Cheryl Schiltz vividly recalls the morning she became a ‘wobbler.’ Seven years ago, recovering from an infection after surgery with the aid of a common antibiotic, she climbed out of bed feeling pretty good.
”Then I literally fell to the floor,” she said recently. ”The whole world started wobbling. When I turned my head, the room tilted. My vision blurred. Even the air felt heavy.”
The antibiotic, Ms. Schiltz learned, had damaged her vestibular system, the part of the brain that provides visual and gravitational stability.
—Sandra Blakeslee, “New Tools to Help Patients Reclaim Damaged Senses,” The New York Times, November 23, 2004.
While this demonstrates my personal limitations and frustration, it likewise severely affects family members. My husband, Pat is a hero. Far too often, he hears, “How is Sue?” On very few occasions, we have heard, “How is Pat.”
A description of him would be best understood when one recalls the lyrics of “The Impossible Dream.”
God put another man in my life at this time too: his name is Paul Wilbur. His incredible gift of exquisite worship has been documented in my medical records: his voice brings quiet peace to my spirit and energizes my life. The Weight of His Glory quietly falls and covers our home – and the homes of untold others.
May God bless and prosper these remarkable men.
Thank you so very much for taking the time to read through this and hopefully glance at the Dateline video.