In 2015 I got a nose surgery due to severe malformation causing bilateral pan sinusitis infections with fever. Blah...
On 26 November I got a septum correction and cystectomy. Fine, hoping for the better to come. But it didn't turn out better that easy. In fact, the wounds after surgery were healing well, but it was the start of a very difficult recovery process. Blah again...
First I didn't respond very well on anesthesia. But OK, that happens to many of us. Right? To keep my new septum straight, I got internal nasal splints for 5 days, splints made of silicone. That caused my second disappointment, because my nose kind of rejected them; I didn't stop sneezing, which was actually a 'not done' issue after surgery, and that sneezing caused a lot of blood issues and was definitely exhausting me.
Then I got two more weeks of intensive nose and sinus care (nonstop rinsing with salt water and follow-up treatments in hospital) and plenty of bad nights. I ended up exhausted, catched a cold from my kids and wrestled with severe headaches and persistent feeling of sinusitis. Right.
So I googled desperately what could help me to get rid of my persistent headaches - especially focusing on the eye and sinus zone - and I went to the pharmacy to get myself a wonder treatment for head colds and stuffy nose, not subject to medical prescription, and containing those ingredients I wanted: kalium bichromicum, cinnabaris and silicea. After some advice I got some chewable tablets containing an extra ingredient which would relieve my severe pain: Bella Donna.
That cruel Bella Donna
I came home and told it to a fellow patient -one of my dizzy me believers, Verony - who warned me I should be very careful with Bella Donna, as this could trigger the vestibular system; she got too many of that in eye drops for eye tests and in anesthesia products, causing severe damage to her system. But, giving the fact that she is a 'severe case', I judged for myself this product wouldn't harm me, as my vestibular system is doing just fine since I had my canal plugging surgery for BPPV in October 2008... I started to take 3x2 pills. That same day I had to take my car to get my medical papers in order, and felt severe eye focus problems... But didn't make the link yet. I must say too, since a few days before taking those pills, I already experienced a slight dizzy sensation when moving my head in bed. Not that bad, but present. Maybe caused by the sinusitis effect, I thought. But it awakened old BPPV memories and fears, for sure...
The day after. First severe dizzy incident. I reached for my medical dossier on a chair, bending over with my head. Immediately I felt the world shifting. I felt I would fall over. Surprised by the event, I got myself through the kitchen door, searching for the walls with my hands, but then the world around me started moving again. I couldn't do anything else than prevent worse by letting myself fall gently on the cold kitchen floor and sit down there, until I was able to stand up again. Incident closed. And wanting so much to forget it. In the afternoon I noticed my ears started ringing. Didn't make the link... yet.
At night I had my second dizziness attack. It started with slight dizzy feelings in bed, getting worse each time I moved, lasting for hours. I got so bad, recognized all the symptoms, just like when I was suffering from my old BPPV troubles, with that one big difference: it wasn't the vertigo like I had before, it was more a feeling of 'the world shifting', and being extremely drunk.
At the end I got that sick I had to go to the bathroom with the help of my husband. All my experience and knowledge on dizziness I gathered the last 22 years didn't stop me from panicking. I tried my dizzy me tricks to stimulate blood flow in my neck, without result. I became very anxious and felt horrible. Sweating, panting, breathing vigorously, starting to hyperventilate (even when I was counting to breathe out 3 x as long to get it under control), needing to go to the loo, my arms both sleeping (side effect of the hyperventilation, caused the dizziness and not vice versa!), and almost fainting, trembling, crying. Got on the floor with a bucket; the nausea made me vomit. Blah. Blah. Disgusting!
After that we managed to get upstairs and I decided to spend the rest of the night under a blanket on the sofa, keeping my head upright. Too anxious.
‘WhatsApp?’, Floris said!
My kids found me the next morning, horrified by what happened to me after all those nice dizzy free years. My oldest son asked me if I didn't need to call my GP. No way, I said. Not because I don't trust my GP, but this was too complicated to get a right diagnosis. I would have to hear that I had an inconvenient but harmless dizziness attack. “No one would be able to help me”, I said, “besides my coauthor Floris”. And as 5 years of being coauthors resulted in my deep respect for the expertise of Floris and a nice friendship, I WhatsApped him my horrible story and cry for help that night.
The next morning I was invited by him to go for some tests to sort out as quick as possible what was happening to me. My husband went working early, so my son Matthias, who experienced and remembers my dizzy life the most - since his birth till he got 8/9 years old - managed to get me to the bathroom to get dressed and ordered me a taxi from my neighbor to the hospital.
Same story passing again
In hospital I had an audiogram - the last one was in 2009, my hearing now was okay - and a Dizziness Handicap Inventory questionnaire to answer. Next, Floris and his ENT colleague went through my whole post sinus operation and medication history and the dizzy events of the last days. Then they did the video nystagmography test and they went through my old brain MRI images taken for my canal plugging surgery in 2008...
They found out what happened to me and did their discussion in front of me, which was really nice for me so I could perfectly understand what was going on. This wasn't BPPV. The canal plugging is still okay - I did Paris-Roubaix which is 170 Km and 53 Km on cobbles, I would have noticed then if there was a problem with that....
A Different Devil
One issue they could see on my old MRI is the blood vessel and the vestibular nerve 'making contact'. This happens to many people, and it could cause Vestibular Paroxysmia, or not. It never occured to me before... So what did happen to cause it now? First, anesthesia can trigger the vestibular system and especially that VP (blood vessel widening drugs, but I don't know what anesthesia products they gave me). It even doesn't mean you feel the impact immediately. Second, the Bella Donna. Stupid me... Bella Donna is an atropine - and often anesthesia products just act the same. So I got a temporary VP triggered just by taking that.
I stopped taking the medication, and soon started to feel the difference. My system was eliminating the last bits of Bella Donna. Probably I won't have to feel this horrible VP again. If it would appear again... I already got a prescription to eliminate the symptoms, but that won't happen, pretty sure!
Bella Donna. Look it up. Wikipedia tells a lot. They give it to soldiers after a gas attack, or when doing reanimation on heart patients. It stimulates the nervous system and can be toxic. Be careful when you have a sensitive vestibular system and when you buy products containing this ingredient.