Saturday, August 11, 2012

One Who Helped Me Heal

Imagine feeling the following sensations periodically on a daily basis: 
light headedness,

Add to that:
 a sense of being out of sync with life, your environment, and those around you.

This all makes you feel
not understood.

Add to all of these symptoms, pain and headaches.
Along with the headaches, 
visual disturbances,
fullness in the ears.  

Along with the above symptoms and sensations,
that does not go away even as you sleep much of the day away,
loss of the ability to
the loss of 
short term memory,
and the inability to problem solve.

not being able to drive,
frequent public places,
 go grocery shopping
because you are overwhelmed by the sights and sounds surrounding you.

Add crippling anxiety to all of the above.

Intensify the debilitating effect of all of the above with the process of dealing with
 grief over the recent death of a child.  

Imagine that it is the dead of winter and the landscape seems bleak and bare.
Nothing seems to be blooming in your life, not even hope.  

This is how I felt though much of January of 2012 after a head injury from falling down the stairs of my home.  This fall sent me on a new journey of learning much about healing, hope, pacing, and patience.
I remember that one of the first pieces of advice given me after my injury by my chiropractor was, 
"Be patient with yourself."
I am not a patient person.

I needed a very special person in my life to teach me patience and pacing.  I also needed one who had the education and skills to properly diagnose my problems and give me the therapy I needed to heal.
That person was

Julie, a physical therapist with South Valley Physical Therapy, is a board certified neurological clinical specialist who specializes in all those symptoms that were robbing me of the life I once had.  To say that she was a God send to my life is an understatement.  I honestly do not know how I would have survived without the skill set that she used to diagnose my problems and to design a treatment plan that would give me both hope and healing.

In many ways, I consider that fact that I even found Julie Knoll nothing short of a miracle.  As I reflect back on my life over the past year, I am aware that I have suffered from vertigo and dizziness since early last summer.  Just as the symptoms of vertigo were finally abating some, I fell down the stairs and my problems with this puzzling symptom in my life were exacerbated.  If I count the number of doctors and tests that I had before I fell, I come up with at least four different specialists or tests that were done to try to find out what was going on in my life.  I was tested for seizures.  I was given MRIs and CAT scans.  I saw a balance disorder specialist.  I was sent to a cardiologist.  I had all kinds of tests, but I had no answers.  Interestingly, the Vestibular Disorders Association found in a survey of those diagnosed to have this disorder that 52% of those diagnosed had seen five or more doctors before they were properly diagnosed and treated.  

After already suffering from attacks of vertigo from an unknown source,  I fell and suffered a head injury.  After the head injury, when things just weren't getting better, my chiropractor,  of all people, sent me to an optometrist, Dr. Saxerud,  who specializes in visual mid-line shift problems.  This doctor confirmed I did not have a visual mid-line shift but told me I totally failed the test for vestibular disorder.  He recommended that I see Julie Knoll. He said she was the best person he knew of to help me with this problem, but he also noted that I would have to travel to Castle Rock, Colorado to see her.  That was not a problem.  Driving 85 miles to see someone who could help me seemed like a blessing.  At least I didn't have to go into Denver.

When I first met Julie, I was immediately impressed by her demeanor.  In fact, since I had been working on acquiring patience in dealing with my vertigo and headaches, I felt especially reassured by the quote on a plaque behind her desk.  I have superimposed it on this photo of the Pope John Paul II rose from my garden.  The quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson reads:  "Adopt the pace of nature, her name is patience."  I knew my healing would not be instantaneous, but I knew I had found someone who would help on the journey.

Julie exudes competence, self-confidence, wisdom, peace, patience, and hope.  She is able to build all of these same virtues in her patients.  As Julie began to review the intake form I had filled out prior to seeing her the first time, I was immediately aware of her great knowledge about the disorder for which I was seeking treatment.  Her academic knowledge was enhanced by her obvious possession of much successful experience in her chosen field.  While all of these attributes are greatly sought for in looking for any healer, I was especially struck by Julie's healing nature which was expressed by her care, concern, and willingness to truly listen and respond with ideas to aid in healing.  She didn't just come up with a treatment plan, she gave me other resources to help me on my path to health.  She suggested books to read, tips on handling times when I was experiencing symptoms, tips on traveling with this disorder, food choice that might make a difference, and advice on how to handle reactions to activities and medications.  She is both a gifted healer and teacher.  She taught me about the importance of exercise and diet to aid in recovery.  She suggested that I might explore dietary changes.

Every time I saw Julie, she gave me exercises to do to help me overcome my disorder and injury.  The philosophy behind the exercise program she developed in one of habituation.  In other words, I was to do those very things that made me dizzy in order to retrain my brain to accept those things that caused me to be out of balance with my body and my world.

As I think back over the past year, and especially over the last six months, I truly do not know what I would have done without the support, encouragement, knowledge, and help I received from this outstanding professional.  It is no small thing to give one a name for something that is disrupting one's ability to cope with what is going on within one's body and brain.  I learned that what I was experiencing had a name:  vestibular disorder.  I learned there was much to learn about the disorder itself, and I learned that the more you inform yourself about your disorder, the better equipped you will be to manage your symptoms and communicate effectively about your needs with family, friends, and health professionals.*

This past week, my husband and I traveled to the other side of the state to visit my mother.  The trip itself was horrendous.  The canyon roads that wind through deep canyons brought back intense vertigo.  The changes in altitude as we drove over mountain passes caused pressure and fullness in my ears that added to the vertigo and nausea.  I was fatigued, nearly unable to cope, my memory and concentration were disrupted as I struggled to regain some sense of equanimity in my mind and my body.  Thankfully, I knew this was temporary.  I knew what to do to regain some balance.  I knew it would take time.  I knew I needed to be patient, to pace myself, to rest.  I was reminded that I should build in a recovery day when I travel.  I was fine after resting a day.  I am not able to drive mountain passes yet.  I hope to be able to do so soon.

I know many will never understand the full scope of how this disorder has impacted my life, but I know that because just one person did know, did have the ability to diagnose and treat my symptoms, and listened to me while giving me help and hope, I am able to do those things I love to do again.  That person is Julie Knoll. I will be forever grateful for her.  She gave me the tools I needed to begin to recover my life.  Thank you, Julie.

*Quote from brochure published by Vestibular Disorder Association