No Alarms and No Surprises

Remember when I said there was nothing quite so scary as waking up to an email with the subject line "MUM IN HOSPITAL"? Well, it turns out there is. Here is the thing that is scarier than waking up to an email with the subject line "MUM IN HOSPITAL": it's getting an IM from your sister in the middle of a meeting that says "Can you call dad? Mum has collapsed and been taken to hospital in an ambulance." 

Seriously, my mother. She goes to England for two months and ends up in the hospital twice. I mean, I know it's free over there and she likes a bargain, but come on. Can't she just buy a lot of 3-for-1 Cadburys like the rest of us?  

I don't quite remember the blur of the next few seconds, just that I pushed my chair back and interrupted whatever whiteboarding was going on at the front of the conference room as I backed clumsily out of it, and then I found an empty space in a part of the office that was full of abandoned desks and tried to get my brain to triage my next steps. IM Susie back to get more information. Call dad. Dad isn't answering. IM Susie again. Get Auntie Frances' number in England. Call Auntie Frances. Call Susie. Try dad again. Dad still not answering. Look up the number for the hospital. IM Susie back. Try dad again. Should I call Luke? Tom? No, don't worry them yet. IM Susie. Call hospital. Explain. I think you just admitted my mother? Hold, please. Please hold. 

I always thought that I'd be good in a crisis, that I'd have some sort of cool, single-minded sense of control, but it turns out that I wasn't very good at all. My hands shook and I forgot simple things, like how to open my Skype app or dial an international number. All the time, the refrain of the panicked looped around in my head like a drumbeat. Please god please god please god please let it be okay. 

Twenty terrifying minutes where no-one knew exactly what was going on, and then I got through to the hospital. The guy at the front desk transferred me around a bunch of times and then he carried the cordless phone over to my mother so I could talk to her, which was such a kind thing to do that I hope he wins the lottery one day, or at least that he came home that evening and his wife had made his favorite dinner and recorded two back-to-back episodes of Downton Abbey. My mother sounded like she was having about as much fun as a person in an ER can have, but she did at least sound alive, which was kind of the only standard I was holding her to at that point. I went back to my desk and googled all her symptoms. Dizzines. Fainting. More fainting.The inability to get up and crawl to the front door to let the paramedics in. 

A few hours and a whole bunch of tests later, the doctor on duty diagnosed her with severe vertigo stemming from the misalignment of some tiny crystals in her inner ear. This is a surprisingly California-like thing to come from the mouth of an NHS doctor, and yet is apparently a totally true thing. My sister explained it all to me, then decided to coin it something a whole lot better. 

Which, as you can imagine, made it a lot more fun to talk about. 


All going well, she'll fly back to the US on Wednesday, and I can't wait to see her and wrap my arms around her. Also to tell her that she is never allowed to scare me like that again. She got me back for the time I ran off at the park in 1984, the time I stayed out way past my curfew in 1996, and the time I crashed my car in 2005. Let's call it even. 

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Nov 12, 2012

I'm so glad everything was ok. I had a similar experience when I was living in New York and my mom was in California. I got a call from a co-worker of hers that she had collapsed at work and was being transported to the hospital via ambulance. Like you I always thought I was good under pressure but instead promptly burst into tears and spent the next several (eternal) minutes trying to contact a family member that could go to her. Everything worked out but I think it was the sense of complete helplessness that got to me.

Nov 13, 2012

I'm glad your mom is OK.
My husband once banged his head on the bed and a day later he had vertigo. He spent the next few days either sleeping or telling me how much he loved me. (He thought he was going to die (LOL), but I went with the flow - the poor guy was suffering.) It took him 10 days to fully recover and the very next week my son accidently banged his head at the exact same spot in a similar fashion. Bah!

Nov 13, 2012

It does, in fact, have a name :) I am not diagnosing her but... it's called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). I am an audiologist in an ENT office and we see it a fair amount. So very scary when it happens but can be treated.
Good luck! It's scary when the tables turn and it is the children worrying about the parents!

Nov 13, 2012

My mom has akso had ear balls! I'm glad your mom is ok!

Another terrible thing is ignoring a call to your cell phone because you don't know the number and then you get home to find a series of increasingly panicked emails about your father being admitted with heart problems. I hope you skip that situation. I am also not good under pressure and ended up pacing in circles around the house and bumping into things while getting more panicky because my mom was not answering the phone. Gah!

Nov 13, 2012

Oh ear balls does suck! My Granny and my husband have both had it at various times and ended up being taken to A&E too, such a scary thing to happen. The good news is that it seems to go away after a few days in bed resting. I hope she gets home safely and feels a lot better soon!

Nov 13, 2012

My mom also had ear balls! I'm so glad your mom is ok and it was something so minor. Super inconvenient, but blessedly minor. I think it was managed with little head positioning exercises to ... move the crystals out of where they have congregated? SO ODD.

Don't count yourself out in emergencies either. Moms are different; there is a special kind of terror reserved for when your mom isn't well. :)

Nov 13, 2012

Two years ago, we discovered my Dad has a heart arrhythmia, ya know after he turned blue in the face, took an ambulance ride and had a lovely two week stay in the hospital. It all worked out for the best, but now any time my mom calls me I feel panicky until she reassures me that everything is fine, and she was just wondering did I want her to mail me all our Disney VHS tapes or could she throw them out?

Nov 13, 2012

My mom had that, too! Is it a mom thing? In my mom's case it involved massive, almost-comical vomiting.

I also had a vertigo thing that lasted months and was NOT positional, which I found out when doctors kept tossing me around trying to induce it. I longed for some out-of-whack crystals, back then.

Seriously, vertigo looks hilarious but feels like dying. I'm glad your mom's okay.

I totally had that happen to me in high school. It was BIZARRE. I'm glad she is OK!!!

Anna Louisa
Nov 13, 2012

I love your family :). "Ear balls" makes it sound much less scary!


Oh my goodness, how frightening for you and your family! I am glad that she is okay!

Nov 13, 2012

Happy to hear she's okay! That would definitely be panic-inducing for anyone. I remember my reaction when my dad called me in the middle of the meeting to ask me to take him to the hospital for kidney stones. Nothing life threatening, but he sounded like he was in such terrific pain and so weak - a voice I had never heard from him before that it scared me!
I dread the day I get a call and one of my parents has passed or is seriously injured/ill. i know it will happen but i hope it is a VERY long way off!

Camels & Chocolate
Nov 13, 2012

I, too, would falter in the face of a crisis. I think you did pretty darn well. And I'm so glad Mum is heading back to the US soon. I don't think England brings her good luck!

Nov 13, 2012

I'm so glad your mom is okay! How terrifying!

Nov 13, 2012

Oh wow! I have a friend with chronic ear balls! I'm so glad your mum is ok!

Drink all the wine.

Nov 13, 2012

That is scary - for you & her.
I know because I got a bad case of the ear balls when I was visiting my in-laws over Christmas. Just woke up one morning & couldn't get out of bed without falling over and/or throwing up. Mother-in-law was convinced that it was morning sickness! Luckily my lovely & sympathetic sister-in-law took me to the emergency doctor in Dublin who diagnosed Vertigo which up to that point I had only known as a Hitchcock film. The rest of the holidays were a blur of moving slowly and sitting down ala fragile woman in Jane Austen book. Finally back in Massachusetts, I went to see a chiropractic Neurologist who magically cured me with a very simple lying on one side, moving my head around slowly and then getting up the other way. A bit like one of those small ball in a maze activities that my mum used to give us on long car journeys. I can't remember the medical name for this, but if your mum is not feeling completely better, I highly recommend it.

Nov 13, 2012

I was so happy to hear your mum was ok and only had ear balls. I know what you mean by trying to keep your cool. I am a nurse and was working on a schedule as part of a committee ( no good reason I was at the hospital normally wouldn't have been there) and the operator overhead paged me. I didn't hear but a couple of people did and I called the operator who put me through to my moms' neighbor who had my mom with her and told me my dad had a heart attack and was coming to the ER. My mom was babysitting my two sons and somehow I had to get my mom to the hospital. I called the lab ( husband worked there to get him to pick up the kids so I wouldn't have to leave) He was in a meeting and I was passed to a couple of people in the department. One person was kind enough to go to the meeting and deliver the message. He picked up the boys and my mom was able to come to the hospital. I was organized to that point and people commented how cool I was under pressure but that was obvious bull----. I am a daddys' girl and I was afraid I would get downstairs to the ER and fall apart. It turns out I was right. He was scared with a tear in his eyes. He was afraid the ambulance scared my two young sons. It turns out it did but the fact that he was ok or ok as you can be after a recent heart attack. Your description fit the bill and when you mentioned the loop playing in your brain I knew I had to write. It was 15 years later and your writing brought me right back there and he is still with us and my two sons are 18, and 20 and still talk about what a loss it will be when something happens to him and my mom. I am beyond relieved that it was ear balls.

Nov 13, 2012

I have a condition called Meniere's disease that comes with dizziness and vertigo. Since no one knows for sure what causes it or how to fix it and it's all in the same family, I'm changing it from Meniere's disease (who can even say that anyway?) to ear balls.

Nov 13, 2012

My mom had this same thing happen to her! Ear balls, I mean, not collapsing and having to be taken to the hospital in England. She had to go on a low sodium diet and take a steroid pill for a couple of years but she's perfectly fine now with no dizzy episodes! I hope your mom is doing well now!

Nov 13, 2012

My goodness! Yeah, Mum needs to come home. England isn't good for her health.

I'm so glad she's going to be okay and in your arms soon.

Nov 13, 2012

I'm so glad she was ok! That's terrifying...I'm always the one thinking someone's in a ditch when they're don't call back for 15 minutes, so to have actual confirmation that something is going wrong is the worst. Ear balls sounds not so bad though! Weird, but not bad.

Nov 13, 2012

My mom had the EXACT same experience a few years ago, and spent days in the hospital. Very scary. She isn't completely symptomless now, but she's done some exercises (you can find them online) which will help deal with the crystals and get you closer to normal.

Good luck!!

Nov 13, 2012

ACK! I have actually had something that sounds like what she has: Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo! And I still have it on and off (about 1-2 times a year), but have learned to live with it and do "exercises"- Epley Maneuver- to get the *crystals* back to where they should be, and it works!! And, yes... I am from California! *lol*

Nov 13, 2012

The Epley maneuver helps 90% of BPPV+ patients the first go round and a repeat maneuver in a week usually gets the rest. In about two weeks, she can start Brandt-Daroff exercises. Google it and the 3rd or 4th link has a nice .pdf!

Nov 14, 2012

I know the panic and helplessness feeling well. Sadly, I am at the age where I attend more funerals than baby showers. My mother has scared me badly twice in the last year and my husbands' father has also given us a few new grey hairs.

So glad to hear your mum is returning home, and that this episode ended well. Phew! (Or, as my middle daughter used to say when something scared her and then turned out all right: "Hewf!")

Nov 14, 2012

I got "ear balls" 6 years ago while in Colorado alone for a conference. I tried to ignore it blaming it on the open bar the first 2 nights but then I was scared sitting in my hotel room as my flight back was canceled due to a snow storm. I was scared that I'd have to call an ambulance to come retrieve me 10 stories up in downtown Denver. I waited for projectile vomiting and hyperventilating to happen and neither did. ;.)

I know I scared my husband on the phone also and he felt helpless. I didn't actually feel horrible, but I could feel the buildings swaying when they probably weren't. It did make for a funky visit to the Denver Art Museum though.

I took lots of Airborne and pounded down the water and stayed in bed (ordered room service too, that helped) and somehow got back home to safety the next day. I have on occasion gotten vertigo flying/driving since but nothing as awful as that first time. I really think it was the combination of flying in flu season and the altitude once I got there. I'm sure the red wine consumed on the first 2 evenings didn't help me acclimate correctly also.

Glad your mum is feeling better!

Nov 14, 2012

Oh gosh I can so relate. This past Saturday? There was an ambulance pulling in my driveway and they were like "we have your husband in there, do you want to talk to him before we rush him to the hospital? What you don´t know he had a car accident? Oh and the police is waiting for you at the totaled car" Yeah well. He is fine thankfully, but like you, I know now that I am totally not good in a crisis.

I hope your mom gets better soon!

sensibly sassy
Nov 15, 2012

ugh what a stomach dropper! I am so glad your mom just has ear balls!

Nov 16, 2012

Augh! I'm so glad it was "only" ear balls and that she's all right now! Enjoy your reunion.

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