He prescribed prism glasses. These were never comfortable. Soon he took me off the prism glasses and started me on eye exercises along with different glasses. I used the Aperture Rule Trainer for this. Two cards were placed on a wooden holder. One had two holes to look through and the other one had two objects a distance apart. The purpose was to look through the first one and make the two objects on the other one go together. There were different cards for different positions on the apparatus. This exercise was supposed to strengthen the eye muscles and train them to work together. He told me I would have to learn to live with the problem.
The eye condition became much worse. I had to stop driving a car entirely. I had been working in the obstetrical department at the hospital, but this condition forced me to stop. It was very uncomfortable to go into large rooms and stores. It was very uncomfortable to just be out-of-doors. My depth perception and equilibrium were terrible.
Riding in a car made me nauseous. My vision was blurred at times, and sometimes I had double vision. It seemed that my being in motion or things moving around me made me extremely uncomfortable. I had trouble just folding my baby's diapers. However, when indoors, except when doing close work, I was not bothered as much.
We were living in Wisconsin at this time. In September of that year we moved to Indiana. The local doctor recommended an ophthalmologist in Cincinnati, and I started going to him.
He told me practically the same things as the other doctor. Additionally, he said I only used one eye at a time and that my symptoms resembled those of someone with an optic nerve injury. He said he could do surgery on the eye muscles; but the results were not always satisfactory, and it would be best to leave them alone.
He prescribed different lenses and told me to continue the eye exercises. In order to get the same effect, he said I could use a pencil, taking it at arms length and bringing it toward the eyes, keeping the eyes focused on the tip of the pencil. Later, he prescribed clip-on prism glasses which helped me for about three months. Then they seemed to make me nauseous, and I quit wearing them.
Also, as the optometrist had told me, he said I would have to get used to the problem and learn to live with it.
I worked very faithfully on my eye exercises for about five years, but I did start to slack off. There were times that I would simply forget to do them. When I missed, my eyes seemed to feel better. Since it was a problem I would have permanently and not doing the exercises made me feel better, I stopped all together. They still bothered me, but not so severely.
Every now and then I would go to a new doctor to see if he could help me, but they all told me the same thing: "Learn to live with the problem."
The body is a remarkable creation. It learns to compensate for problems it has. I learned to avoid being around many moving things. I could tolerate out-of-doors better if I were near a tree or building. I stayed away from rooms that required me to look over large areas. I quit shopping in stores, and I no longer drove a car. My life was greatly restricted.
At the same time the eye problem started, so did several other symptoms. I began having severe headaches. These came at anytime. They did not seem to be associated with emotional tension, menses or anything. Since I had so many eye problems, the doctors told me that was the cause. That certainly seemed logical to me since I had quite a time with them. After several years of having the headaches, they became associated more or less with the onset of my menses. I could relieve them fairly well with aspirins. As soon as I felt one starting, I would immediately take aspirins to ward it off.
Another symptom that started at this time was a hypoglycemic feeling. I would suddenly start having a slightly disoriented feeling, shakiness and weakness. Even though there was no feeling of hunger preceding these attacks, I learned to eat something sweet immediately; and the symptoms would go away quickly. I started carrying lifesavers with me at all times.
I felt the problem had a lot to do with my weight gain during pregnancy; and if I controlled my diet a little better and stayed more on the high protein type of foods, it would go away. Many people complain of this, and I didn't feel any concern about it. All I needed was a little willpower, I thought.
About the time the headaches became associated with my menses (around 1965, I think) another symptom came along. It seemed on the eighth day preceding my period, I would get a feeling of extreme anxiety. I called it my "bad day." For that one day most every month, I could practically "jump out of my skin." My periods were not regular. They varied from 24 to 40 days. Most frequently, however, they were around 30 days. I talked with a gynecologist about it, and he said I was probably having late ovulations.
I have always had a heat and humidity intolerance. When I became hot or the humidity was high, I did not stop at being uncomfortable. I felt as though I could not think and became dizzy. My head would feel full. I do not know when this first began, but it became increasingly worse through the years.
Another symptom developed during this time. I had in my right hand, right foot, and around my mouth a numbness when they became cold. It seemed they did not want to manipulate. This did not occur on my left side. There were a few rare times when they were not cold that they would have a hesitant feeling about moving. I could always make them move, but I seemed to have to concentrate to do it. This would last only a matter of seconds. I thought the feelings of hesitancy were only a result of my imagination.
My heart murmur was first noted in 1949. I was told it was of the insignificant type. It has never given me any apparent symptoms.
A few times, I have had some joint soreness in the fingers on the left hand. They would become slightly hot and slightly swollen. This lasted for only two or three days when it occurred.
In summary then, my symptoms consisted of:
3. dermatitis on feet and left hand
4. eye muscle imbalance
5. hypoglycemic feelings
6. anxiety on eighth day preceding menses
7. intolerance to heat and humidity
8. heart murmur
9. right hand, right foot and around mouth became numb and hard to manipulate when even slightly cold.
10. slight joint soreness in left hand periodically.
11. pain in right side (lower quadrant)
14. feeling of fullness in my head at times
I became accustomed to these symptoms. They never seemed to vary much, and I worried very little about them. I thought many of them were "just nerves." Since the bicycle wreck at age 10, I have blamed most all of my complaints on "nerves."
After not being able to work for approximately 5 years, I decided to work first in a nursing home to get back into the groove of nursing, and also to find out if I could tolerate the eight hours of work. Nursing homes do not have as demanding a routine as hospitals, and I also enjoy geriatric nursing.
The first place I worked was a disappointment. In order to be able to operate, the owners needed to keep the beds filled. From a business viewpoint, this is certainly understandable. However, I felt very strongly that my job as a nurse was to get the patients well and send them home thereby emptying the beds. The two ideas conflicted; and after two months, I left.
The next place I worked was much better; and I loved the owners, the nursing home, and my work.
Through the years, I had conditioned myself to avoid being in places that would aggravate my eye condition. Also, I avoided hot areas. Thinking along these lines, I decided to only work in the cold months since this nursing home had no air conditioners.
After leaving my place of winter employment, I learned of a new air-conditioned nursing home fairly close. Even though I would have transportation to that area only for the summer months, I decided to work there for that short length of time.
I was happy because I wanted to work and now I could in that nice cool place. Plans don't always go as we make them. The air-conditioning units were in the patient's rooms with none by the nurse's station. I gaily went from room to room and made sure all the units were on. So what happened? Those little old men and women shivered and said, "Turn that cold thing off."
I made it through the summer, but it was not as cool as I had expected. Luckily, there was usually an empty room I could go into to cool off when I needed it.
After proving to myself that I could do an eight-hour day and that my eyes did not hinder my work, I started working in the obstetrical department at Fort Hamilton Hospital in September, 1967. The delivery room has always been my first love in nursing. My eyes and equilibrium still bothered me a great deal, but were tolerable.
During the summer of 1968, the headaches seemed to get worse. I would usually wake up with them, and would usually start my menstrual period at the same time. I had been having headaches for years and had been able to take a couple of aspirins and still be able to work.
Once I took some and went to work as usual. During the first part of the shift, I became dizzy and weak. I had to return home. I wasn't very concerned about it because I thought the aspirins had not set well on my early morning stomach. I went home, stayed in bed that day and felt fine for work the next day. Most women complain of something during their menstrual period. I had always been very fortunate in not having cramps or feeling very bad (except for the headaches) during those days.
I compared my symptoms to those of other nurses and nurses' aides. So many of them had experienced headaches with their periods. Many of them said they had severe headaches before starting their menopause and some said they did before having to have a hysterectomy.
During my working day, I discussed these headaches with practically all the gynecologists as I accompanied them on their morning rounds. They said headaches at the menses was one of the most frequent problems of which their patients complained.
It became almost routine after that. When my menses started, the headaches were so severe I could not work. I would feel dizzy and sick. If I went to work, I would usually have to ask to leave.
When a nurse does not fill the job she is assigned to do, it puts the department in a hard position. Nurses aren't easy to replace especially those working in specialized areas such as the delivery room. I apologized for having to leave, but I had reached the point where I could no longer work with the headaches.
Periodically, I was beginning to feel dizziness not associated with the headaches. (The equilibrium symptoms that were associated with my eye problems was different from this dizziness.) This dizziness was not a spinning type, but similar to the feeling a person gets after turning around a couple of times. I was feeling pressure in my head along with this dizziness. Also, I noticed that I could almost bring on the dizziness at will by simply holding my head in a forward position. This dizziness was not a severe feeling, and I was able to work with it.
Since 1955, I have had on rare occasions (about ten times in all) an extremely severe attack of dizziness that lasted only an instant. If they lasted longer, I am sure I would have fallen.
In November, 1968, while on duty, I had an unusual experience. I began feeling a little dizzy. This time it was accompanied by a feeling of weakness, nervousness, and a severe feeling of being unable to think. I had been accustomed to having a slight feeling of disorientation when I would have a hypoglycemic feeling; but that was much, much milder and lasted for only a matter of seconds as I always relieved it quickly with life savers. I had not had it so severely since my first baby was born in 1956. I asked to be relieved of my duty and returned home. My menstrual periods had always been irregular. I was on my fortieth day since the last one.
With these additional symptoms, I knew I had to break down and take a trip to a gynecologist. I had consulted him before while at work about my headaches, and he had previously ordered a thyroid test to be done. The results were within the normal range. Now, I made an appointment for a vaginal examination.
He said the examination was negative. He prescribed Hydrodiuril and Valium to be taken five days before the onset of menses for the headaches. Also, he gave me Norlutate to start my period. I told him about that odd feeling of being unable to think. He said it was probably due to the hormonal imbalance.
I took the Hydrodiuril and Norlutate as prescribed, but not the Valium. I did not want to take any medication that might influence my judgment since I was working in the delivery room.
Throughout the years of going to eye specialists, none had ever recommended that I have an ear examination. Now, I was beginning to believe that maybe the inner ears were playing a part in the dizziness.
I had never had any ear trouble except ear aches as a child. I decided to have them checked out to make sure.
I went to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. He did a Caloric Test. There was a reaction in the ears. The left ear was more active. He prescribed Bonine, Lipoflavanoid, and Tigacol. I asked him what he thought was the reason for all this. He said the cause was unknown.
I found the Caloric Test extremely interesting. When this test is done, the results are measured by the reaction in the eyes!! For the first time I now had a direct link between the eyes and the inner ears. How did they link together? I did not know; but one thing I did know is that between the two, I was having a terrible time with my equilibrium.
In five days the Norlutate started my period, and the Bonines gave me great relief from the dizziness. I felt much better. I returned to work after being off a week. To my great and very pleasant surprise, the pills gave me relief from symptoms that I had associated with my eyes for years. Through the years I had conditioned myself to the eyes jumping and now, suddenly, I was missing the jumpiness and the eyes seemed to change positions smoothly.
I must say I was delighted. I felt that I could get help from the Bonines that I had never gotten before. Each morning before going to work, I would take one of them and as long as they were effective, the symptoms were minimized.
In December I had a cold, and the right ear became sore and clogged. The ear doctor "blew it out." There was no dizziness associated with this.
Around this time, I went through the routine examination given to all nurses at the hospital. The doctor detected my eye problems; but other than that, I was not told of any major health problems.
In February I had a physical examination done by an internist. He told me that the menstrual headaches were thought to be from a sudden drop in estrogen at the beginning of the period. He said birth control pills helped to alleviate these headaches. Because of all the side effects associated with those pills, I said I would rather not take them. He then prescribed Cafergot. A Pap test was also done, and the results were negative.
Later that month, I noticed a feeling of tiredness in my jaws and in my tongue at the end of the working day. I felt that I had to make them move. My legs were beginning to have a slight, continuous, tremor in them as though from weakness. The hypoglycemic feeling, which had always been so easy to relieve, seemed to come more often and became harder to relieve. The inability-to-think feeling was being felt frequently, especially when I was tired.
There were several reasons for these feelings, I thought. We had been very busy at the hospital, there had been some personnel conflicts in my department, my family was in the process of selling our old home, buying and moving into our new one. I thought all of this was too much for me and that I had a good dose of fatigue.
I knew I could no longer keep up with the rapid pace of the delivery room; and I thought perhaps if I could change environments and get away from the tension in our department, everything would be all right. So I asked for a transfer to another department.
Leaving the department that I loved so much was a terrible emotional event for me.
My co-workers knew of my eye problem and dizziness; but as I have throughout my life, I told no one of the nervousness that I was feeling or the odd sensations in my tongue, jaws, and legs. I thought they were only symptoms of fatigue and "nerves." Never did I realize I was becoming severely ill.To Continue