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Muriel from Blog

As time passes, I’ve had to change my mind on many issues — just one of which is wondering why otherwise intelligent people can throw money away on promises of unlikely cures. I didn’t understand, for instance, why people with cancer would pay thousands of dollars to go to some Mexican clinic to be given shots made of apricot pits. Did they really think it would work? Why, I thought, would they be so gullible as to believe charlatans and frauds who offer magical cures for whatever? (Thank goodness delicacy required me to keep my mouth shut on the subject at the time.)
You know I’ve dealt with dizziness, nausea and imbalance for years. Episodes in the past were awful, but less frequent. During the 1990s, they hit with a vengeance and tenacity I was unable to cope with. I, myself, became one of those “gullible” people. I now realize it is not so much gullibility as desperation.

The dizziness was so persistent, I was unable to cope

The dizziness was so persistent, I was unable to cope

I, who had flatly refused to take hormones, who questioned and refused just about every prescription any doctor tried to give me, suddenly accepted, bought, payed for, swallowed and did whatever my doctor or anyone else suggested might help. I wanted my life back!
Antivert didn’t help, so I tried SERC, then Dramamine, then, as recommended, I doubled the SERC. I tried a diuretic. I was willing! I was desperate! I was even ready to try inner ear surgery which causes deafness but “might” eliminate the dizziness. (I later did have that surgery, but whatever was causing the dizziness had by then also caused deafness in that ear, so there was nothing to lose.) It too did NOT cure the dizziness.
“We just got a brand new product in for nausea,” suggested my local pharmacist, who no longer had to ask my name. I bought it… It didn’t work.
“Have you tried acupuncture?” inquired a business associate over the phone.
“No, do you know someone?”
I didn’t know her, but I accepted her recommendation anyway.
“How about a holistic practitioner?” someone else proposed.
What’s his number?” I asked.
I was ready to try anything. If someone had promised the dizziness, imbalance and nausea would go away if I stood on my head and spit nickels, I’d have tried that too.

 Off-balance, dizzy and suffering with nausea, I would try anything


Off-balance, dizzy and suffering with nausea, I would try anything

As you can imagine, I wasn’t doing much cooking and jokingly threatened to turn my kitchen into a bedroom, but the shelves began to look more like a large medicine cabinet, lined with containers full of prescriptions and remedies that didn’t work. I thought I’d have to toss out some dishes just to make more space.
I popped pills, was poked by needles, swallowed vile-tasting, expensive Chinese herbs and solutions as directed, plus I obeyed and consumed nothing but cooked foods. My body had “too much dampness and too little energy”, and there was a heck of a lot of work to be done on my “spirituality”!
Finally, I came to the conclusion that what I definitely didn’t have enough of was — money, to pay for it all — I had become too ill to work.
Being desperate enough to grab at any solution myself, I learned an important lesson and was, once again, humbled. Vestibular disorders don’t kill you, but they can make you wish you were dead. So I now fully understand how others suffering from incurable and possibly life-threatening diseases can succumb to the hope held out by those bastards who prey on our vulnerabilities.
And, I’m still learning…..

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Bragging Rights

Muriel from BlogI’ve been having a grand time reading books downloaded onto my e-reader from the Gutenberg Project website. As a history buff, I’m thoroughly enjoying “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin” written in 1791. Franklin wrote with obvious pleasure about his many accomplishments, and who can blame him. 

“I shall a good deal gratify my own vanity,” said Franklin. “Indeed, I scarce ever heard or

Franklin was unabashedly proud of his accomplishments

Franklin was unabashedly proud of his accomplishments

saw the introductory words, “Without vanity I may say…” but some vain thing immediately follows.”

It made me think about some of the good stuff most of us accomplish in our own lives and, although nothing I’ve ever done compares with Franklin, perhaps it is okay to share some, especially since one was so recent, I am still basking in the pleasure of it.

This was a tax issue complicated by my having lived for years in the U.S. before returning to Canada, which resulted in some double taxation. After about a year of letters, phone calls and emails, I received an email just this week, which reads partly: “Muriel:  Good News.  It appears that our contact, —– has been able to negotiate an exemption for you as well as other clients in your situation with the CRA…..  He complimented you on your very thorough investigation noting that it was extremely helpful in amending the current policy, not only for you, but in general for all clients in the same circumstance.  Kudos to you!!!   ….

I know I'm right, blah, blah, blah....

I know I’m right, blah, blah, blah….

.”Since I’m neither an accountant nor a tax expert, you can imagine how pleased I am, especially knowing that I have, at the same time, helped others.

I’m also pleased with the fabulous little Book Club I started around 1997/98, which continues to enrich my own life so much. I’ve certainly gotten more out of it than anyone else possibly could.

We read, we discuss the books, and enjoy each other

We read, we discuss the books, and enjoy each other

Through the years, this little group of knowledgeable, well-read women has introduced me to authors and books I would never have read on my own. And besides we have a good time at it.

But here’s the biggie. I am extremely proud of having founded the BC Balance & Dizziness Disorders Society (BADD) in 1999, with the encouragement and support of my then wonderful otolaryngologist, Dr. Graham Bryce. BADD is dedicated to supporting people with balance, dizziness and all related vestibular issues, and we’ve managed to help hundreds of people who suffer with these debilitating conditions.

Tai Chi is now recognized in the medical literature as being helpful for the vestibular system

Tai Chi is now recognized in the medical literature as being helpful for the vestibular system

Soon afterwards, I saw Teruko Ueda performing Tai Chi and thought perhaps that would be a good thing for us dizzy folk to try. The “Tai Chi for Balance” class was started in 2000 and is thriving under Teruko’s gentle leadership. Now Tai Chi is recognized in medical literature as being helpful for people like us.

The “Vestibular Rehab exercise classes” we started continue to run and help people cope. BADD also created a DVD of these for people to use in their own homes if they don’t have access to a class in their own community. Hurrah for all of us. You can find BADD’s website at: http://www.balanceanddizziness.org

BADD created a DVD of Vestibular Rehab Exercises people can purchase and do in their own homes.

BADD created a DVD of Vestibular Rehab Exercises people can purchase and do in their own homes

So, you will understand why I so enjoyed the following article about BADD written by Canada’s well-known humourist Arthur Black. He is the only one I know who can write with humour about his experience with Benign Positional Paroxysmal Vertigo (BPPV) and, fortunately for him, finding the proper treatment for same.

Arthur Black, beloved Canadian humourist

Arthur Black, beloved Canadian humourist

(By the way, Arthur Black, a 3-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour and former host of CBC Radio’s “Basic Black”, etc., etc., has a new book out, “Fifty Shades of Black”. Just hearing the title made me laugh.)

Arthur Black's latest book, "Fifty Shades of Black", guaranteed to make you laugh.

Arthur Black’s latest book, “Fifty Shades of Black”, guaranteed to make you laugh.

Of Vertigo, Vanity and Volunteers

Reprinted with permission of the author, award-winning Canadian humourist Arthur Black

A couple of years ago, I suffered – briefly – from a condition called Benign Paroxysmal Position Vertigo – BPPV for short.

Dizzy spells, to put it even shorter.  If I got up too fast or turned my head too sharply or bent over quickly to pick something off the floor, my internal gyroscope went into overdrive and I lurched about like Ozzie Osbourne on New Year’s Eve.

You don’t get BPPV from bad dietary practices, using street drugs or hanging out at the Willie Pickton pig farm.  BPPV is an equal opportunity bushwhacker that nails vicars and villains alike.  Anyone can get it, at any age, at any time.  An attack comes when microscopic grains of calcium crystals floating about in your inner ear brush against tiny hairs therein.

This sends signals to your brain that you are falling down, or veering left or right.  Your brain attempts to get your body to compensate in 11 different directions all at once and, hey presto, you feel like you are going through the spin cycle in some galactic Maytag.

Happily, there is a procedure called the Epley Maneuver.  It’s a relatively simple manipulation of the head that any qualified ear, nose and throat specialist is trained to perform.  Basically, Doctor ENT takes your noggin and gives it a vigorous spin.  The idea is to shake up those calcium crystals in your ear and get them to settle down where they’re supposed to be, well away from the hairs.

Does it work?  An astonishing 85% of the time – providing you actually are suffering from BPPV.  If your vertigo is caused by something else (and there are several possibilities) then the Epley Maneuver won’t help.  My vertigo was cured in one visit and I wrote a magazine article about it.  End of story.  Not.

I get an email from one Muriel Kauffmann.  She is a spokeswoman for a group called BADD which stands for Balance and Dizziness Disorders Society.  As a former sufferer, she wants to know, would I consider coming to town and speaking to her group?  Well, sure.  Public speaking is what I do for a living.  I email her back with details of my speaking fee, my expenses expectations and my availability.

I get another email.  You don’t understand, writes Muriel.  We are a non-profit organization.  We don’t even have an executive.  Would I come and speak for free?

Hell, no.  I’m a professional.  I don’t give away my services.  Would you ask a surgeon to do a free appendectomy?  A lawyer to defend you in court, gratis?

You don’t understand, Muriel emails back.  She makes many passionate arguments, but what it boils down to is, what I don’t understand is that she is Muriel Kauffmann and she will not be denied.

When I arrive to deliver my (free) speech at St. Paul’s Church in Vancouver, the auditorium is not only sold out, there are people sitting in the aisles and a conga line of latecomers trailing out the door.

This is entirely Muriel Kauffmann’s doing.  She had dredged up every soul who ever suffered from vertigo in the entire British Columbia Lower Mainland and they are all here tonight.

And as almost happens when I abandon my narrow preconceptions and go with the flow, I learn amazing things and hear incredible tales.  I hear one sufferer tell how her doctor pooh-poohed the Epley Maneuver.  “It’s a hoax,” he assured her.  I hear of another vertigo victim who spent 10 years – ten years – as a prisoner inside her own house, terrified to face the world for fear she would fall on her face.

After a decade of self-exile, she went into the office of an ENT specialist in a wheelchair.  And walked out on her own two feet.

I hear stories infinitely more interesting – and harrowing – than my frail tale, but incredibly, my vertigo story – thanks entirely to Muriel Kauffmann – continues to snowball across the nation.

So far, I have been interviewed by two Vancouver newspapers, CKNW radio, the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Sun. I have yet to return calls to the Toronto Star, the Montreal Gazette and CBC radio’s national radio show, The Current.  I’ve got emails, cards and letters from BPPV sufferers from Joe Batt’s Arm to Buffalo to Baffin Bay.  I’ve written books that didn’t get one-tenth this attention.

Point of the story?  A metaphorical bouquet of roses to the Muriel Kauffmanns of the world who Get Things Done and Don’t Take No For an Answer.  Muriel’s a volunteer and like all volunteers she gives her time and her energy and her cunning, all for free.  Volunteers – bless ‘em – are the backbone and lifeblood of our communities.

Moral number two: count your blessings. If you got out of bed this morning and didn’t fall flat on your keister or do a 180-degree face plant into the wall, consider yourself lucky.

Award yourself an extra scoop of corn flakes.”

I am particularly proud of  mu children who love me despite my failings.                despite

I am particularly proud of my children who love me despite my failings.

Benjamin Franklin was certainly able to say he accomplished much in his lifetime. I’ve managed a few of my own that please me. I think being a parent and raising my children to be good, honest, decent, human beings is another accomplishment I am extremely proud of.  And, I am proud of them in particular, especially for their loving patience with me in all ways — especially regarding technology.

What about you? How about sharing some of your accomplishments here?