Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lets Do the Smoke Alarm Shuffle!

Lately I've been experiencing quite a bit of vertigo due to my Meniere's Disease. This is an inner ear disorder which effects hearing, and vestibular function. In February of this year, I noticed a definite increase in vertigo symptoms, but being the big procrastinator I am, I took vestibular suppressants, and hoped for the best. The best didn't happen. I got tired of being stoned off my arse all of the time, and besides the meds weren't working anyway, so I took myself off of them. I'm scheduled to see my doctor on May 25th. She will hopefully prescribe more vestibular therapy.

It is a kind of physical therapy which aims to "retrain the brain" to accept the wacko vestibular system as "normal." I did it for about three months last summer and it helped quite a bit. Well, at first it made me sick as hell, but after about a month of drastically increased symptoms, things got a lot better. I'm hoping to go back for a second round. Until the therapy starts working, I'll be walking around, slamming into walls, and falling over quite a bit.
I use a wheeled walker in my home, but when I'm outside, Laveau does counterbalance work, and is able to keep me upright-- mostly.

Today was just another ordinary day at work. I was sitting across the table from my first student of the day when an announcement came over the PA system. They were working on the sprinkler system and the smoke alarm may go off. It was just a test, and we were to disregard it. In addition to being a hell of a walker dog, Laveau is also a great hearing dog. I taught her that when she hears the smoke alarm, she is immediately supposed to get my attention, take me out of the building, down the block, across the street, and then body block me from the building until the alarm stops.

With a hearing dog, there is no such thing as a "fire drill." Just like with a guide dog there is no such thing as "pretend traffic." It's a very serious thing, and even if the alarm goes off five times in a single day, Laveau is to follow her routine. I can't take the chance that she begins to ignore those alarms, because one day, it could save my life.

So there I sit, mid-class when the alarm goes off, and Laveau flies into action. before I knew what was happening, we were navigating the hallways swiftly and it was all I could do to stay upright. Vertigo, meet hearing dog with a mission. Down the hall, out the door, down the sidewalk, pausing a few times to brace me or to yank me upright. Cross the street, and stop. I wanted to throw up because all of the walking was making my world turn upside-down, literally. No time to puke because my dog just did a really awesome thing and I need it to be highly reinforced. So I gave her treats and scratches and let her jump up and give me a hug, meanwhile speaking to her in the high squeaky voice she so loves.

The alarm stops, and we go in. Thankfully I had explained the situation to my client, so she knew why I left her unexpectedly.

That client leaves, and a new client arrives. I give him the same song and dance about fire alarms and hearing dogs and bla, bla, bla. Which was a really good thing because someone in the Activities of Daily Living classroom burned the corn bread and once again! The fire alarm went off. and... Once again, Laveau and I were off, weaving down the hallway, out the door, down the sidewalk, and across the road. I was swearing through gritted teeth by this point because it took one hell of an effort for me to walk at all. We made it though, and we had more hugs and treats and snuggles.

Thankfully that was the last alarm for the day. My balance crapped out altogether on me this afternoon as I was walking home from the mini mart. I don't think I'm going anywhere tonight. Sometimes I feel like I'm at war with my ears, and right now-- I think they're winning. However it gives me great satisfaction to know that Laveau has ears enough for the both of us!

1 comment:

  1. LOL "pretend traffic/alarms."
    I hope your doctor is able to help you out soon.