July 23, 2017
“Props,” said the young pharmacist on DeRenne Avenue who couldn’t have been older than 12 as she started to wrap up the cuff, the monitor, the squeeze ball after she gave me my blood pressure numbers.
She didn’t look concerned so I had to ask, “Props. Is that a good thing?”
“It’s good,” she said. “You know, like short for respect, proper respect. Your numbers look good.” And then she was back at her post behind the counter.
“But wait. Do you think we should take it again?” I asked. “Just to be sure.”
“Nope,” she said with certainly, with pride. “I don’t let anyone else use this equipment. It’s mine. It’s accurate.”
Well, OK then, Ms. Pharmacist-at-your-local corner drugstore. Props. And thanks for being there when I needed you. I’m serious. Much easier than going to the emergency room.
Time for a Dilly Bar.
But what about the dizziness? Do I get props for that? She didn’t know but she was quite certain I wasn’t going to have a stroke right then and there, that I would live to see another day, to pull another weed, to read another chapter in Thomas Wolfe’s “Look Homeward, Angel.” Which was good. The book is a tome. Which meant I could ignore the dizziness for yet another day. Which is how I like to treat anomalies. Ignore them and they will go away. I know about dizziness – like when you are foolish enough to go on a roller coaster. Which I no longer do. I know about dizziness from walking up and down a train car, too. Which I do with care (if not grace), bouncing from one seat to another to another, like that pinball game where the moving thingey pings off cushion after cushion, for which you get points. Props.
But this lightheadedness was different. This was a little scarier. It happened a little more often, especially when it involved getting up from bed in the middle of the night or in the morning, from a chair in the afternoon, or from a yoga mat after downward dog. The room, previously still and very much anchored, was spinning. The ceiling too. Round and round she goes. There was no roller-coaster to blame it on this time, no train either. That’s when I hustled to the drug store for the blood pressure check. That’s when I went to see the doctor. He didn’t seem worried. “This happens in old people,” he said. “Older,” I corrected him. “Older,” he said, to placate me, to appease me.” Then he had a diagnosis: “BPV, benign positional vertigo. I’m probably 95 percent certain.”
I liked the word “benign.” I loved the word “benign.” I asked him to repeat it. Then I asked him to write it down. He placated me. Again. It’s when stuff gets stuck in your middle ear, he said, although I’m sure he didn’t use the word stuff or stuck. When doctors mumble that language, it’s so hard to follow. This vertigo thing starts when free-floating pieces of calcium lodge in a little ear canal and start to interfere with your balance, he said. Kind of like free- floating anxiety, I thought. He sent me to get a test to confirm his theory, then to see a physical therapist. Oh, and to use hydrogen peroxide.
Hydrogen peroxide? I said. That’s so retro. I liked that.
The test that hooked me up to the computer and measured my eye movement took 10 minutes. I looked at a red dot on the wall and turned my head one way, then the other, faster and faster. What’s this for, I asked the technician. To see if you’re dizzy, she said. I already know I’m dizzy, I answered.
Next step. The physical therapist. You lie down, turn your head quickly one way, then the other. Something like that. It’s called the epley maneuver. I was following directions, not memorizing the movements. The therapist looked deeply into my eyes and told me to repeat the maneuver. Bingo. No dizziness. You’re cured, he said in so many words. I liked those words too. Come back if it happens again. Again, so retro. They just had to jiggle the calcium pieces.
Still on the medical-appointment treadmill, I was sent to see someone else to get the results from the test. That’s when I learned about otoliths. Sounds very Russian, I said to the doctor. Very timely, wouldn’t you say? Oligarch, KGB, USSR. No comment. Your otoliths have fallen out of alignment, he announced. Otoliths are calcium particles, kind of like little beads that balance on your finger. When they fall out of position you lose your balance. Wikipedia says counting the annual growth rings on the otoliths is a common technique for estimating the age of fish. What? First, a Russian conspiracy. Then a fish story. There’s a reason I’m not a medical person.
If it happens again I should lie down, assume a fetal position and thrust my head rapidly in the other direction. The doctor in a purple shirt plopped down on the examining table and demonstrated. Then he got up, made some notes and said, “It’s been a pleasure.”
I returned the compliment. “Props.” By then he was out the room and on to the next patient.