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Dealing With Dizziness

Camille Simon

Camille Simon was feeling carefree as she drove out of a park-and-ride lot one evening in June 2007. It took just a moment for it all to come to a screeching halt. "I remember hearing the loudest banging of metal and squealing brakes. Then, I saw smoke pouring out of the hood of my car. I was terrified that the car would explode, and knew I had to get out of it fast," she says.

A car had run through a red light and crashed into Camille's car, knocking her into another car. "It was hit on the driver's side, the passenger's side, and the back and front ends were demolished," she says. Worst of all, Camille's head had slammed into the driver's side window with enough force to shatter the glass.

"I tried to get my seat belt undone, but it was stuck," she says. A woman who had seen the accident came to help. She wrestled with Camille's seat belt and was able to free her. Another driver helped Camille get out, and they called for help.

At the hospital, Camille found out she had a concussion and torn ligaments in her wrist. After a thorough examination, she was given pain medication and sent home to recover.

However, the next day she felt so nauseated and dizzy that she couldn't stand up. She made an appointment with her family doctor, who sent her back to the hospital for an MRI to make sure nothing had been missed. An MRI creates pictures of the brain or other parts of the body. The results showed nothing out of the ordinary.

Strange and disabling symptoms

But, Camille still felt off balance. She also was vomiting almost daily. She and her family were worried. Why would she still feel this way?

A few weeks later, Camille went back to the emergency room. "The doctor on call that night knew there was something terribly wrong," she says. "He brought in a neurologist to find out what was going on. That visit would start my road to recovery."

Camille's weeks of uncertainty came to an end with the neurologist's diagnosis: positional vertigo. This can cause the sensation that you're unsteady or your head is spinning inside when you tilt your head a certain way.

Camille's vertigo resulted from her head hitting the car window. In the center of the ear canal, small crystals of calcium help maintain balance. If the crystals are knocked out of place, it can cause dizziness and nausea. Sometimes, the crystals can be put back into place by a procedure called the Epley maneuver – done at a doctor's or physical therapist's office.

Camille went to therapy two to three times a week to try to get the crystals to shift back into place. There were other treatments, too. "They put me on a treadmill and had me focus on a certain part of the room to try to get my balance back up again," she says. "But, because of the extent of damage, there was no way to fix it so the crystals would stay in place forever."

A manageable condition

Though Camille's vertigo isn't cured – she's still unable to look upward – it's manageable. Also, she's happy to know why she feels this way. "I prayed that I'd find someone to listen to me. Thanks to the help of a caring doctor, I finally got answers."

For the most part, Camille has gone back to living her life as she did before the accident. She's had to make some adjustments because certain movements still can leave her feeling dizzy and nauseated. However, Camille has a message for others who have vertigo: "It's livable. I'm alive, I'm healthy, I'm thankful to be here."

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