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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 February 2008, 03:22 GMT
'I had to crawl to the bathroom'
Jane Fallace
Jane says GPs must be better trained to spot the symptoms
As the Royal College of Physicians calls for more doctors specialising in hearing and balance problems, one woman describes enduring 30 months of debilitating vertigo attacks.

Mother of two Jane Fallace saw three GPs and five consultants before she finally used the internet to track down someone who could help her.

In July 2002, with absolutely no warning, I had my first vertigo attack. It was sudden, totally incapacitating, and very frightening.

The room was spinning around me, I felt sick, I had to crawl on my hands and knees to the bathroom. I was left cold, shaking, and incredibly frightened.

I went to see my GP who said I had an infection, prescribed me antibiotics, and told me to go away for three weeks.

To get some idea of the visual effects of vertigo try moving your eyes from left to right several times in quick succession. Now you partially understand the problem.

It happens very suddenly, without warning, and for me, was lasting between five to 25 minutes. It was happening while shopping, taking the children to school, during the night - anywhere and any time, in fact.

Life disintegrating

In the months to come, I would see different GPs and specialists. Each offered a different explanation, and each ended in a brick wall.

I do not understand why it took so long to reach a solution for me and still find it very hard to accept this

I was told I had labyrinthitis (an inner ear disorder), a brain tumour or lesion, Glue ear and Multiple Sclerosis, among others.

I had blood tests, several hearing tests, computerised balanced tests and an MRI scan. Treatments ranged from nasal sprays and low salt diets to osteopathy and a tooth guard.

I also declined the insertion of a grommet, and invasive surgery to repair a possible tear in the ear.

Nothing improved my situation and as the weeks went by I lost confidence as I struggled to continue - my life was simply disintegrating.

Growing helplessness

And all the while my balance continued to deteriorate.

I was becoming a recluse, and so frightened because no-one could tell me what was wrong

Anything that required movement would quickly make me feel disoriented, unsteady and ill in a way that extreme motion sickness would. I became less and less able to cope with daily activities.

To feel better, I needed long periods of staying absolutely still. This was often not possible or practical with two small children to care for.

You depend on your balance; I think it is important to understand how it feels when it stops working properly.

If you sit on a swivel chair and have someone spin it round and round very quickly for around 30 seconds - then try to get up.

Intoxication through too much alcohol - imagine feeling like this every day but you are stone-cold sober.

I was becoming a recluse, and so frightened because no-one could tell me what was wrong. I couldn't see a future. I had to deal with hardly any independence, fear, anxiety and stress and a growing sense of helplessness.

Our life as a normal family had all but ceased as I was so limited. I could not go swimming, play football in the park or do any of the usual things the boys enjoyed.

Identified cause

Although by that stage using a computer was an ordeal because I found it hard to tolerate the flicker, I did find some information on the internet.

The Meniere's Society put me in touch with three people who they thought might be able to help me, one of whom was Mr Surenthiran at Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent. It was nearly 30 months on from when my symptoms began.

He identified the root cause within our first meeting. A combination of physiotherapy and drugs meant that within six months I was feeling better. I was diagnosed with Migraine Variant Vertigo.

I do not understand why it took so long to reach a solution for me and still find it very hard to accept this.

There are, without doubt, people of all ages sitting at home right now with balance problems who feel, as I did, that they have reached the end of the line and have no-one to turn to.

They too probably feel that their life is all but over.

It is very important to give them a second chance to get their life back on track. We simply have to alert GPs and consultants to the existence of people with Mr Surenthiran's expertise.


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