I have Meniere’s Disease. It is easy for folks to forget that as the disease is “invisible”. Amazingly, I sometimes forget I have it myself. So that is just embarrassing! GRIN. Meniere’s disease manifests itself in individuals in a variety of ways. The disease lacks specific symptoms and triggers that are true of everyone. The disease varies person to person. For myself, the weather tends to be a very specific trigger for me. If pressure systems come into the area that include heavy rains or even high humidity, I know that I will have a “bad balance day”. If that day is simply the beginning of a string of similar weather days, I can be so off-balance by day 3 or 4, that I practically have to CRAWL up and down steps. It’s rather embarrassing to crawl when you are 45 – believe me!
Here in Maryland, we have had a significant amount of sunny, low-humidity days. As a result, my balance has been pretty good. Yesterday, I did laundry and actually jogged up and down the steps WITH a laundry basket. Yet I forget sometimes that in spite of my having few visible symptoms, I still HAVE Meniere’s disease even on bright sunny days.
Chloe does a number of things for me, only some of which are hearing alerts (what she was originally trained for at Fidos For Freedom). Chloe has also been trained to help me with a number of “balance assist” tasks which are very helpful on days I am experiencing Meniere’s disease symptoms. As a matter of fact, there are weeks that Chloe actually does more balance work for me than she does hearing alerts. One thing we have taught her to do is to “roll” her own blanket. I carry a blanket that is HERS. The blanket goes to every place I teach. It smells like her and she knows it is her “safe place” to be unless I ask her to do something for me. I usually put it out of the way in the classroom, but where she can easily see me. The blanket and Chloe are usually within 4-5 feet of me at all times. Below is a video of Chloe “rolling” her blanket — she adjusts the carpet square to be high enough that I can easily reach it without having to bend past my limitations.
I get aggravated at family and close friends sometimes when they make suggestions for me to do something or try something that they KNOW I cannot do. It’s easy to forget certain things I cannot do because I don’t walk around with a sign on my shirt that says, “Beware of fall when bending!” You know what? Sometimes the person who forgets what I can and cannot do is – ME. You’d think I’d always be aware of the fact that I cannot bend to get something off the floor without paying the price. For me… bending far enough to retrieve something off the floor means that I lose consciousness for just a few seconds. Everything goes “black” in my vision, and my “hearing” (even with a cochlear implant) turns off. As soon as I stand back up, everything snaps back into focus. If I bend quickly, (for example to try and catch something as it is falling), I usually “join” the item on the floor… only I am sprawled out looking ungainly and mystified as to how I got there.
We’ve had beautiful weather here in Maryland lately. I need to remind myself on days like these that I still HAVE Meniere’s disease. In class this morning, I began gathering my things up to pack into my bag and exit the room. I dropped my roll sheet, so Chloe went over to pick it up and bring it to me (an automatic retrieve). As I was standing next to her pink blanket, I decided to save myself time and reached down to pick up her blanket. I lost my balance and my forehead crashed into the podium. After connecting with a wicked CRACK, the impact popped me back on my caboose. Thankfully, I didn’t lose consciousness. Chloe trotted over to me with the roll sheet and dropped it into my lap. She wagged her tail at me, nose 3 inches from my face.
“Hey Denise! Umm… why are you on the floor?” (Yup. I can read my assistance dog’s mind. Scary, huh?)
“Guess I should have had you roll your blanket, huh Chloe?”
Upon hearing “roll blanket”, she calmly rolled the end of the blanket and then tugged it over closer to where I sat.
I heard a student over my shoulder ask, “Ummm. Mrs. Portis? Are you OK? Was that your HEAD?”
I tried to chirp out in a manner that was convincing, “Oh sure! I’m fine, no problem!”
As I used Chloe in a stand/stay to get off the floor… I thought to myself one word – over and over again.
Harsh reminders are needed from time to time, if not for any other reason than to remind us of the consequences of forgetting our own limitations.
We need to remember our own limitations. As a person with hearing loss, it helps me to remember that I cannot hear well in really noisy, crowded areas. If I need to have a conversation with someone, it is better to ask them to step over to the side out of the “hub-bub” of noise if I need to talk to them. Failure to acknowledge what I cannot do well (hearing in noise) only results in that I will be frustrated and angry at my inability to understand the conversation. If I want to play with my dogs, I need to remember to sit on the floor in order to tug on toys, throw balls, and squeak stuffed animals at them. If I try to “play” standing, I am sure to take an unplanned nosedive.
Have you had some harsh reminders about your own invisible illness or disability? Some lessons are hard to learn!
© 2011 Personal Hearing Loss Journal