Doctors failed to determine the cause of my mother's dizzy spells

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a family member who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

The first time I experienced a dizzy spell, I was nineteen years old. My mother and I were shopping at the local retail store. Suddenly, I felt hot, and the floor started to spin.

I remember clutching the handle of the shopping cart and hoping the floor beneath my feet would steady soon. When I told my mother how I felt after we returned home, she told me this story, in her own words:

"Dizziness was something that bothered me now and then. It went on for years. Finally, I asked my doctor about it. Unfortunately, the doctors would never figure out what had caused my dizzy spells. Eventually, I just learned to live with them," my mother said.

"The doctor sent me to a specialist for extensive inner ear testing. The specialist did so many tests on my inner ears that I can't even remember them all. None of them was painful, but none of them was pleasant, either," she told me.

"One test that stands out in my memory was the water test. First, a technician filled my ears with cold water, and then they filled them with warm water," my mother explained.

"This is how they did it. They had me tilt my head sideways. Then they put a small funnel in my ear canal and poured the water into my ear," she said.

"It was the strangest sensation. I've never enjoyed getting water in my ears, and I don't know how to swim. Even in the shower, I'm careful not to let the water get inside my ears. So it was unusual and uncomfortable to have my ears filled with water on purpose," my mother told me.

"It felt weird. I had an irrational fear that the water would flood my brain, but I was fine. It took a while to sit for the whole procedure. I think the machine was running slow, and don't forget. I have two ears, and they could only do one at a time." She laughed.

"I remember the last test I ever had, too. I think I remember it because it was so easy. The room got pitch black, and then they flashed bright lights from everywhere at first and then a few at a time to see if it caused me to have a dizzy spell. Well, it didn't," my mother said.

In the end, my mother never learned what had caused her dizzy spells. She just learned to live with them with the help of a single prescription medication prescribed by her primary physician. Fortunately, she doesn't have to take medication often, but she always has her pills on hand just in case.

I haven't talked to a doctor about my dizzy spells because they occur so infrequently and they are mild. Hopefully, I'll never have to endure a battery of tests just to end up without answers, as my mother did.

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