Saturday, January 10, 2015

Vertigo 1, Suzanne 0

Yeah, so last post talked about being prescribed a steroid to hopefully fix this off-kilter feeling I've had since New Year's day.  Well, it seems that my severe allergy to Cortisone means I cannot take any steroids.  Something I did not know, because in nearly 9 years, no other doctor has prescribed steroids.  Probably because they knew this, but I don't know.

So, the pharmacy tried to call my OLD phone number to tell me this, I wait in line for a half hour to pick up said prescription and then find this out.  Not happy about that, I call the doctor's office Friday morning to inform them.  They call in a synthetic steroid and I get a text to pick up my prescription last night-except it is the WRONG prescription (it's for the Meclizine I told them I didn't need yet.)

I'm still off kilter and no closer to seeing if adding medication to the mix gets rid of the merry go round I've been on.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The Sucky Part About Having a Chiari Malformation

Well, all of it is pretty crappy, if you ask me, but right now, the most sucky thing?

When the neurologist admits that she can't tell whether the vertigo is causing the ubiquitous headaches, or whether the headaches triggered this current vertigo episode.  I can honestly say it is not a lack of knowledge on that front, it is a labyrinth of issues that are so interconnected that even the most seasoned neurologist can't definitively answer this one.

Thing is, the headaches are nearly always a part of my days, that I never stop to consider that they're causing other problems.  The only thing I have notices is that the constant neck and shoulder pain (that hovers at a 5 or 6 on that Likert scale) have been strangely absent since this whole episode started.

I think the biggest surprise is that this doctor, who I am not really fond of, was actually rather decent and displayed a modicum of compassion-which she has not shown one shred of in the past.  She even offered up a prescription for valium for next week's MRI, when last year, she told me I didn't NEED them.  Maybe it's the fact that I'm symptomatic and it's obvious it's bad.

Heck, she gave me a note to not go back to work.  Alas, the impending deadlines convinced me to not use it.

Upshot is an increase in the meclizine, a steroid, use my migraine medication on any and all headaches, even ones I am convinced won't improve with it, and go back in two weeks if there is no improvement in my situation.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Should I Switch to AT&T's Next Plan?

I do not deny that when the new iPhones came out, I had a serious case of 'I WANT!', but the practical side of me knew I couldn't spend that money any time soon.  There's a trip this year that required some deposits (yes, we are boarding a chartered cruise again) and well, I'd rather pay those than have the newest phone.

My current phone, the iPhone 4s, was acquired the day those came out just over three years ago.  So, I've been well out of contract on our cellular service, but like I said, the priorities for the fun money this year had a phone lower on the list.

When the new phones were announced, I looked at AT&T's website and saw they had two options, the plan we've always had with them, where you pay a subsidized amount for the phone, and the new Next plan, where you pay a monthly fee.  Unfortunately, the site doesn't really spell things out for you, so I assumed that the $25 a month for a 16gig 6 was over and above what we pay each month.  No thanks.

Then, my niece's cell phone broke last month and she got the new iPhone, using the Next plan.  She told us her bill actually went down.  So, I went back to the AT&T site and nope, it really didn't explain this at all.  A few days later, I was shopping at Costco with my friend Jessica and she finally upgraded her iPhone 4, but she paid outright for a 16gig iPhone 6.

This gave me a good opportunity to ask the rep about the Next plan.  Without looking at what I was paying for three lines,  he said the majority of customers have their rates drop a little.  It is offered as 18/24/or 30 month payment plan.  What is different is that, once you finish the monthly payments, you just have your base rate.  What this means is that currently, I've spent 15 months playing the subsidized rate for my phone beyond when I should have.   (It explains why none of the cell phone companies are in a rush to get you to renew!)

So, yesterday, Ed and I went to the local AT&T store to verify what the Next plan entails.  And yep, our base plan will be considerably less once we have paid off the phones.  We can trade in the phones early, if desired, but considering that we seem to hang on to them a bit longer than 2 years, it's possible we will have a few months of base plan.

If we had gone for the 16gig 6 or 6 Plus, our monthly bill would have dropped about 10 bucks a month for now.  But, I spend about an hour a month culling out photographs because my 16gig phone is FULL (and that's with less than a gig of music on it).  Long before the 6's came out, I decided that the next phone would be at least 32gig.  Little did I know, after the 16gig, it jumps to a 64 gig.  Okay, so that's what I'll get.

I was all set to get the 6, Ed wanted the 6 Plus 128gig.  Why?  Because all the iPad music recording apps he uses can be used on the phone.  Cool, it'll be easy to tell our phones apart-until he and the rep had me walk over to the display and compare the phones.  Yeah, so after having a 64gig 6 on the table, ready to walk out the door, the better resolution on the 6 plus was noticeable.

The store got wiped out of 6 Plusses over Christmas, which meant we ordered the new phones.

Another thing to consider: that unlimited data plan. Ed and I have had it on our phones since we got the 3Ss in 2009.  The Next Plan removes unlimited data-but it ends up that between the three of us, we use less than 3 gigs in the average month.  However, it allows us to tether devices, something that we've wanted to do when we travel.  It ends up that 10 gig of data per month costs exactly the same for us as the 3 gig-so that's what we opted to take. (I can tether my laptop at work when I need to check school email now.)

If you're thinking of switching to the Next Plan, it is a good option for those who hang onto their phones longer than 2 years, like us.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Vertigo Once Again

Last year, when I got the new (and arrogant) neurologist, she sent me out of the office with prescriptions for three 'just in case' medications. The fact that vertigo had returned after ten years of playing nice was enough for her to think that it would not lay dormant anymore.

For the most part, I feel like I carry a little Vera bag in my purse that takes up space and sounds like maracas. I had a couple of major vertigo episodes that were enough to convince me that hey, maybe that little bag of medication isn't such a bad idea. Let's just say that when you triage yourself to the doctor, she sends you to 4 specialists because she doesn't want to agree, and two of those doctors come back with the EXACT same diagnosis you'd triaged, you don't really put a lot of faith in their abilities.

In the past few months, I've had a fair bit of low level 'spinny' spells that weren't fully ramped up and started taking the meclizine I was prescribed. While it didn't work on my vertigo back in 2002, I find that if it is taken early enough now, I can head things off at the pass. At the end of October, I had an episode of unexplained nausea crop up at work, and took the Zofran that was also prescribed and 20 minutes later, I felt perfectly fine.

So the medications work, and have with lesser events. The problem is, when you're in a full blown vertigo episode, the body has a violent defense mechanism called "everybody out, three exits only". I wish I were kidding about that one, but if you've ever experienced a violent vomiting situation, imagine your body doing that to the entrance AND exits of the digestive system.

Those two medicines are meant to prevent vertigo from going full tilt boogie and won't be of much help when your world is spinning like a 45 on a turntable, because the body is doing its best to empty the stomach.

This morning, I woke up from a sound sleep at about 2:30 or 3:00 am with the early stages of a vertigo attack. As I'd consumed two sips of champagne that tasted a bit off, I assumed I had the bed spins from bad booze and went back to sleep. Bad mistake, but I also do this with migraines and other health issues, so not unusual. Then, at 4am, I woke up to the world spinning at 45 RPM. Pardon the language, but the first thoughts were 'Fuuuuuuuuuuck!" and "I need to get to the bathroom NOW before I make a mess." I struggled with sitting up, with standing, with even putting one foot in front of the other to make it from my side of the bed, across the bedroom and into the bathroom.

I don't know if I yelled it or just spoke it, but out came "HELP" and Ed was out of bed instantly, asking questions, but seeing immediately that I was in vertigo crisis (he has it, too). He helped me to the bathroom, then went and searched for my medication, with me trying to tell him the flowery dark blue Vera pouch and getting out "the bag that makes noise". Even in the state I was in, with adrenaline coursing, clinical observation skills kicked in and said "hmm, apraxia, never noticed that happens".

He found the medication bag and brought it to me, and I told him to look at the labels I'd placed on them. Because the bag has 4 identical prescription bottles, and I use one fairly often, I placed colored tabs on each that say what they're for to save myself time finding what I needed without actually having to read them. (Green says 'vertigo', blue says 'nausea', pink says 'muscle spasms', and orange says 'pain') Until today, I didn't realize that this is also useful for others when I need help, because you cannot focus to read when vertigo is in high gear.

I now know, send him for something to catch what comes out the front end first! He went for the small garbage pail we have in the other bathroom (that I'd hidden in the shower when we had company last week!). All through this, I sat with my eyes closed and head laying against my left arm, which was braced on the wall above my head (we have a tiny water closet off the master bath). With my eyes closed, I didn't even experience the spinning-this is atypical. Normally, you cannot escape it.

All the while, I'm observing and noting what happens. "Okay, the spinning is about 45rpm, there is no nutating, ah, here's the galvanic skin response-that's interesting, as I am comfortably warm, the RSD is not reacting, mild ataxia, I can think clearly, moderate tachycardia, peristatic action is in overdrive...". Part of this is just how my mind is wired after all the effort to research anything and everything-and these episodes are becoming frequent enough that I am trying to determine what I can do something about, as well as identify triggers.

Then, strangely, after sitting for what seemed like a very long time (no idea how long it truly was, and this is typical for these episodes), the spinning slowed down and came to a stop. In all my previous episodes, the spinning stayed with me for hours until I slept it off. This time, it stopped, but I still felt like I had a bobble head, so Ed helped me out into the living room.

Vertigo spells are exhausting. I wanted nothing more than to lay down and go to sleep in my nice, comfortable bed, but I knew that was a very, very, bad idea. Instead, I sat upright in my chaise in the living room and went to sleep there. Now, 20 hours later, my head still feels off kilter, the kind of cotton head that is common with a cold. I've napped off and on and a trip out of the house for lunch with my sister and niece was nice, but I napped for about 4 hours afterwards.

Ed and I compare notes on how vertigo manifests in each of us, and while I hate that he has it, too, it is so helpful to have him know exactly what I need when the words are jumbled. He later told me that 'the bag that makes noise' was a better descriptor than the 'darkest blue Vera bag with flowers', especially since he was searching in the dark to grab it out of my purse, but I was frustrated that my mouth was saying 'the one that makes noise' and tried saying the right thing, only to say 'makes noise'! Vertigo sucks, but man, I feel for people with permanent ataxia.

Based on our conversation, we both agreed that we'll wake up overnight with an emerging issue (headache, back spasm, joint pain) and don't want to take the trouble to get up, get medication and water and come to bed, because we know we won't get back to sleep after doing that. Our solution is that the medications will go on nightstands. Yep, we're old folks with the nightstand pharmacy. Only problem is the glasses of water and a kitten who likes to knock crap over. I'm thinking I need a couple of smaller tervis cups.

This year has started off with some excitement I don't want and didn't order. I'm hoping that it was just the bad champagne. At the very least, it was a chance to observe and note more of what happens in a full scale vertigo episode.