Old Friends Acting Our Age

person injecting a red apple by using a syringe

Derek has a weekly breakfast with a bunch of guys he’s known since high school. One of them just had a pacemaker installed. Another, an emergency appendectomy. Still another will have to lie face down for weeks – WEEKS – after eye surgery to repair a detached retina. Four people we know have COVID-19. And all of this happened within the last week.

My tweet reads: What's it like to get older? You call a friend to tell them another friend is in the hospital only to find out the friend you're calling is in the hospital too! Both will recover. Getting old is a privilege denied to many. But it's not for the weak.

The night after I sent out that tweet, I dreamed I had an argument with a former coworker about what was more important: money or health. He argued in favour of money because the wealthy can buy the world’s best health care. But if you’re terminal, I responded, money does you no good. Health has to come first.

On and on the argument went. The dream was so realistic that I woke up feeling as it it actually happened. Ever have one of those? Of course you have. The next morning when I saw his photos plastered all over social media after an event (he’s medium-high profile around here) I was pretty confident he hadn’t snuck into our house and woken me for an argument. Besides, surely Derek and Cuddles would have noticed!

Spinning Like A Top

Meanwhile, I woke up last Monday morning with vertigo. For the uninitiated, vertigo is not dizziness. It’s a completely disorienting condition where the world spins past you like pages of a book being flipped. Only it’s the same page over and over and impossible to tell which way is up. It can (and did) make you sick to your stomach and afraid to move in case it happens again. And it happened over and over until finally, it stopped.

My friend Jen was simultaneously experiencing bouts of vertigo for the first time. (What’s up with THAT timing?!) My brother is familiar with the condition. It’s not rare, by any means, but you need to know what’s causing it before you can stop it. Kevin mentioned exercises that supposedly correct an imbalance in the middle ear and having nothing to lose, I looked them up. Legitimate health websites (WebMD, the Cleveland Clinic, etc.) explain how to do it.

Thank You, Dr. John Epley

The Epley maneuver is a simple set of body positions done in quick succession. And I’ll be darned but it worked. After a couple of days I felt stronger and the feeling that vertigo could recur at any time went away. And so did the episodes.

“Vertigo is often caused by the displacement of small calcium carbonate crystals, or canaliths, within your inner ear. The Epley maneuver — also known as the canalith repositioning procedure (CRP) — is a method to remove these crystals trapped in your ear’s semicircular canal.”

The Cleveland Clinic
Please don’t just follow this image. There’s more to it, including how to choose a starting position. And you must be very careful or you could hurt your neck. Some doctors advise only doing these movements in the company of a physician or chiropractor. I AM NOT A DOCTOR AND THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE!

I’ve had motion sickness ever since I went to Universal Studios in the 90’s. It was a radio station trip. We did the CHML morning show live from Universal and were treated like VIPs. Most of the rides were virtual, meaning you sat in a vehicle that shook and tipped as you watched a video. Some of them shook pretty violently and that would have been enough to knock these crystals out of place.

But vertigo thirty years later? That doesn’t make sense.


The crisis has passed and other than feeling a little weird if I bend down, I’m back to what passes for normal. There are other causes of vertigo, so please don’t assume it’s nothing if it suddenly arrives and it’s out of character. Kindly note the above declaration that I’m not a doctor, etc.

Our buddy with the new pacemaker won’t be allowed to drive for the next month. The appendectomy patient is being looked after by his wonderful wife who had a similar emergency a few years ago. Our pal with the detached retina has already undergone several surgeries and has more ahead of him. The COVID patients are starting to test negative. Everyone’s on the mend and should return to good health. And if I had to pick one, I’d choose health over wealth anytime. I’ll continue to argue that point in my sleep if I have to.

9 thoughts on “Old Friends Acting Our Age”

  1. I’m with you Lisa, health (till death) trumps wealth. However, a little wealth may help sustain better health for a longer lifetime before health issues overpower wealth. However, it seems we are fast approaching a society where there is no middle ground between being wealthy or poor. And, it appears to be a much bigger struggle for the poor to live reasonably healthy for an entire lifetime. It is expensive to be healthy and this is where the wealthy step up to help the poor. So, in a sense, wealth trumps health.

  2. Are you a doctor? Is this blog post medical advice?

    But seriously . . . you are such a great writer. You take seemingly unconnected events and find the common thread, then apply it to your own life.

    I’m not going to say it’s a gift, because I know you have worked very hard to become the awesome communicator you are.

    I especially appreciated how you wrapped this post with a bow, as they say in the journalism biz, bringing your conclusion back around to the same spot where you started.

    You are wise and funny. That’s all there is to it.

  3. Lisa, I have been spinning since 2005 when we went on a cruise. I was diagnosed with Mal de Debarquement Syndrome at University Hospital & it often occurs in women between 45-60 yrs of age & after a 10 day cruise in the Caribbean – or a long car ride – or a plane trip. There’s not a treatment for it….so I wake up every day spinning like a top & the only relief I have is when I am in a pool or in the car. It sounds crazy but trust me it’s not fun & I’m always happy to hear that someone finds something that works, i.e., crystals in the ear (BPPV). Unfortunately that is different from MdDS. After all this time I am coping but on days when the barometer is high, the winds are strong, I have difficulty functioning. Sorry about this long story, but if people are aware of this illness, perhaps a treatment can be found. It was exciting on CSI when Grissom spoke about it as he was diagnosed with it…

  4. I’m with you, Lisa, health over wealth for me too.
    Well, this past Spring, I woke up one morning feeling exactly what you have described. There I was still in my bed, but everything around me was spinning. I thought maybe I turned over too quickly to look at the clock. Nope…it didn’t stop. 
    I happened to have an appointment with my doctor a few days after that, and as soon as I told her what had happened, she said it sounded like Vertigo. To be sure, she said she would get an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist to call me at home to determine if I should go in to be checked. Then she gave me a copy of those simple exercises. She said to wait til he called before doing them.  He called, asked me some questions and explained exactly what you said about the displacement of small calcium carbonate crystals. He explained The Epley maneuver to me and said to do it a couple of times a day for four weeks and that should take care of it. Well, it was like magic! Like you said, it worked.  
    Thank you for spreading the word for anyone who may be going through it.
    I’m glad to hear that your friends are all on the mend.
    We may be aging, but we are lucky to have so much help readily available to us. 

    1. I’m so glad you’re feeling better and that the Epley worked for you! I have been waiting for an ENT or a neurologist to give me an appointment. Did you know that they can just say, meh, no, not interested in that case? They can. Anyway, thanks and I’m glad you’re better.

  5. Hi Lisa: If you aren’t sure what caused the vertigo, here’s some advice from one who was diagnosed with BPPV & whiplash – next time you go to the dentist, make sure they don’t lay you down with your head lower than your heart & feet. That may set things off again. I hurt my neck & spent a year spinning & having the Epley maneuver done until it worked, thank heavens. Make sure to rest if you feel anything different with your neck or ears. And Thank You for saying dizziness is not the same as vertigo! There is a world of difference. As for health or wealth – take it from me – my husband had a massive stroke & is now paralyzed on one side, unable to talk & is in a nursing home. Health is everything.

    1. This is fascinating, Pam, because I have a neck injury from a couple of car crashes that is just my “thing”. Maybe they’re connected? I’m so sorry about your husband. Thanks for sharing.

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