Monthly Archives: April 2014

My Annual Meniere’s Disease Update

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It’s now been four years since my endolymphatic shunt surgery. I give an update every year for my fellow Meniere’s Disease sufferers, to let them know how things are (still) going.

In 2009 I hooked up with a new doctor in Indianapolis, Jerry House, who has since retired. He was great (after my bad experience with supposedly the best guy in Fort Wayne, who kept giving me prescription after prescription). Dr. House walked me through four surgical options, and said the endolymphatic shunt was the place to start—the least invasive, yet a high success rate. I pocketed the idea, since I was going through one of those unexpected good periods Meniere’s sometimes grants.

But at the beginning of 2010, I went to Honduras, and as soon as the plane got up to altitude out of Chicago, a nystagmus kicked in—eyes scrolling forward. It went away, and full-blown vertigo didn’t overcome me, thank goodness. But the next morning in Honduras, nystagmus hit again, and by the end of the day I was vomiting. It really sucked having this happen in a foreign country. Fortunately, it wasn’t too bad, and I was still able to do what I needed to do.

But the experience convinced me to follow through on the surgery. Upon getting home, Pam and I made another trip to see Dr. House, and we set up a surgery for April 16 (Pam’s an accountant, so we had to wait until the end of tax season).

The surgery and recovery went well. I had a set-back that summer with acute pancreatitis, which threw my whole system off and made me wonder if the shunt surgery was a bust. But Dr. House said my body would adjust, and by October everything had settled down.

Skip ahead to April 2011. I had a vomiting episode…and haven’t had one since. Three years now, and I haven’t vomited. That’s how we Meniere’s people tend to measure time—how long since our last vomiting episode.

Let me give a few updates from the past year about specific aspects of Meniere’s.

  • I’ve had a few minor episodes of nystagmus—one which went on for several minutes, it seemed, but the others very very minor. But though I’m left with a bad headache, I’ve never descended into vertigo.
  • I think the hearing in my left ear (the one affected) continues to deteriorate.
  • There is always some static in my left ear. I don’t much notice it anymore.
  • I still need to watch my sodium and caffeine intake. If I’m “bad,” the noise in my ear increases (it’s reached howling pitch a couple times), and I can tell that a potential vertigo attack is down the road. However, I’ve been using much more salt than I did in my presurgery days (I now salt my fries freely, though I had totally stopped doing that before). I haven’t resumed drinking coffee, but I’ll have a half-cup now and then (don’t want to push it), and most mornings I stop for a chai or a McDonald’s mocha. Moderation is the key. (I’ve never been an alcohol drinker, so that trigger isn’t an issue with me.)
  • I’m no longer worried about flying. Next week I’ll drive to Pennsylvania and back (500 miles each way), a work-related trip, and I have no qualms about that. Before the surgery, I would have been very concerned about a vertigo attack happening while I was on the road.
  • I tend to be unsteady at times; it’s easy for me to lose my balance momentarily. Ladders and stools aren’t my friends.
  • There is always a feeling that vertigo is lurking in the background, eager to come forward. But the shunt seems to be working great to ward off vertigo attacks.

In summary–my experience has been totally satisfying. My doctor told me the things that would NOT happen–like, I wouldn’t get my hearing back, and I couldn’t start pouring on the salt and consuming caffeine again. But in everything else, the best-case scenario has prevailed…for me. As I’ve said before, I feel like I’ve got my life back. Meniere’s is always with me, and the hearing loss is highly annoying, but I pretty much do whatever I want to do.

So yes, I highly recommend the shunt surgery. Experiences differ, as the comments in some of my previous posts show. But it’s a good place to start.


My various posts about the surgery:

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Colbert Can Talk Intelligently about Faith

I’ve always been intrigued by Stephen Colbert’s knowledge of Christianity. He gives glimpses of this between the punch lines, and he clearly knows how to defend biblical Christianity.

Yesterday the online Christian magazine, Relevant, published a piece called “Six Times Stephen Colbert Got Serious about Faith.” It’s quite revealing.

Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly have been criticizing CBS’s decision to replace David Letterman with Colbert. “An “ideological fanatic,” says O’Reilly. “CBS has just declared are on the heartland of America,” declared Rush Limbaugh, describing Colbert’s hiring as an open “assault on traditional American values” (Rush and Bill, of course, are both known for their deep commitment to marriage).

Meanwhile, Colbert remains married to one woman, is a devout Catholic, teaches Sunday school, and can clearly defend his faith (as he showed this past week with liberal theologian Bart Ehrman). And have either O’Reilly or Limbaugh been to Iraq or Afghanistan to spend time with the troops? Colbert has.

But just because Colbert (like me) holds some views that fall in the “Democratic” camp–views on justice, the poor, immigrants, etc.–he gets lambasted as somehow morally corrupt by hypocrites like Limbaugh and O’Reilly.

I’m not aware of any other TV personality who can talk about my faith as well as Stephen Colbert can, even when cloaked in satire. So yeah, this guy in the heartland of America will watch him.

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This Piano and Me

steve-pianoThis piano, my favorite piano in the world, has really been around. My parents got it in 1965 when I was in third grade, living in Huntington, Ind. I began taking piano lessons on this piano from Mabel Meadows, wife of former bishop Clyde W. Meadows.

The piano moved with us to Pennsylvania in 1966, then was packed at the front of our little U-Haul when we moved to Arizona’s Mojave Desert in 1969. It sat in the back of a pickup truck on the beach there in Lake Havasu City for youth outings, and went with us to church retreats high in the mountains by Kingman.

This piano then moved with us to Pixley, Calif., and mostly left my life in 1975 when I went back to Indiana for college. Meanwhile, the piano returned to the arid desert when my parents accepted a pastorate in Fountain Hills, Ariz. Then, when they took a church in the South Bend area in 1989, the piano was with them…and very close to me, again. It spent some time with my brother Stu’s family. Then, finally, maybe 10 years ago, it arrived at our house.

This piano, at which I learned to play, has survived thousands of miles and extremes of weather. It has given me numerous hours of both frustration and joy. I still love the touch, such a familiar key action. And today, we got it tuned by Larry Merriman. It sounds great.

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