Nearly two weeks ago, I came home from an event feeling normal, whatever that is at my age, ready to plan for the next day.
But late in the night, a switch went off in my head. Something had changed quickly, and it wasn’t good.
I tried to get up, but everything seemed to be spinning, and I couldn’t keep my balance. I slumped back into the bed, trying not to wake my wife. (It really takes a lot to wake her, anyway.)
Somehow, I fell back asleep.
My wife got up and went about her morning routine. My head was turned to the left on my pillow, but then I turned to the right, and my world went haywire. The bed seemed to be spinning and rocking. I was getting nauseated and scared.
I thought I yelled to my wife, but apparently that was only in my head.
I looked to the left again, and things started to calm down. What was happening to me? I don’t get sick.
Instead of staying home and calling my doctor, I decided to “man up.” Still dizzy and disoriented, I got in my car and drove to work, an 11- to 12-mile trip on some of the busiest roads in Baton Rouge.
The drive was difficult as I continued to have bouts with dizziness. But, I continued on.
At one point — about a span of four or five seconds — I was completely disoriented. What a fool I was. I was endangering myself and everyone else on the road.
But I had “manned up” and was determined to get to work. I never miss work.
I finally arrived at our parking lot. When I went around to the passenger side of the car and reached in to get something, I got dizzy again and fell into the passenger seat. I sat there for a moment to gather myself.
Undaunted, I went into my office still queasy and a little scared. I sat at my desk for a minute, but the dizziness would not subside. I walked through the office. Someone asked if I was OK. I said “no,” but plugged on.
I talked to co-workers for a minute, and they would say later that I seemed incoherent.
When I got back to my desk, I felt worse. So I finally called my physician, and I got an appointment for early afternoon. But that meant I would have to drive home or get someone to drive me.
Of course, I would “man up” again and drive myself. I called my wife and told her I had an appointment, and that I was well enough to drive myself. I could tell she didn’t believe me.
Heading home, I was a split second of dizziness from hurting or killing someone. But I went on.
During the drive, my daughter called. She was concerned and afraid for me and told me how unwise I was. I appreciated her call, but told her I could make it.
Later that day, my son called, unnerved by the call he had gotten from his sister.
He questioned my judgment about driving and he told me to take care of myself, then he closed, saying, “I love you, Dad.”
He and my daughter had hit home. I had been stupid.
My doctor told me I had vertigo, which involves dizziness and the perception of a spinning motion due to dysfunction in the inner ear. It’s often associated with nausea and vomiting as well as a balance disorder, causing difficulties standing or walking.
As it turned out, I have had several bouts with vertigo. But, it never lasted more than a couple hours and never to the degree of what I experienced this time.
As I write this column, I am still dealing with very minor symptoms. I hope all the problems will be gone shortly.
To the guys out there like me, don’t do what I did. Don’t “man up” when you know you are having serious health issues. And, please, never get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
I was stupid and lucky. I may not be the next time.
Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.