A Zebra or a Horse and the Experience to Know the Difference

My daughter recently went through an ordeal with her health. It began just after Thanksgiving and continued through most of January. That is a long time to deal with a health concern. She woke up dizzy one morning. My first indication was when she was on the floor throwing up and called to me and said she couldn’t go in to work.

A stomach virus – my first thought. It happens. People get over it. She didn’t. Finally she made me understand that she was dizzy and that was the cause of the nausea.

Still, I was not overly concerned. These things happen and she’s young and healthy and we had just returned from one of the best vacations we’ve ever had (Cypremort Point down on the Vermillion Bay  http://www.crt.state.la.us/louisiana-state-parks/parks/cypremort-point-state-park/ ) and I knew she’d be better soon.

She did get a little better, but then she was on the floor throwing up again a few days later. Her nurse and doctor friends became concerned when she was not able to stay better longer than a day or two before another bout of this mysterious dizziness hit her.

So she had tests to rule out scary things that might have gone wrong in her brain. Negative. Then we had tests to rule out other scary things. Also negative. She saw three specialists. Two were ENT people who did more tests. She had MRI’s and xrays and blood tests and hearing tests. Some days she could hear just fine. On other days she was losing her hearing.

Thousands of dollars later, we had no definitive diagnosis and she was going through her savings at light speed.

Sitting and talking to you, she might suddenly fall out of her chair when the dizziness hit. She couldn’t drive herself anywhere. Her new car sat in the driveway looking sad. These dizzy spells sometimes lasted for days. On the days when she could go to work, we had to drive her to her job and back. All these dizzy spells affected her work. They made her use a walker to get around inside the office. Humiliating, but safe. She missed a lot of work days. Amazingly, her employers kept her and worked with her as best they could.

We stumbled through Christmas with a mystery as to what was wrong with her. The doctors and specialists were not sure. No definitive diagnosis. They referred her to other specialists who had different equipment that could maybe identify the problem.

Zebra. January came. They thought, maybe it might be a rare and difficult to diagnose disease for which there is no cure. This might be something she would have to live with while she slowly went deaf. She was trying to find out what to do with her car because she couldn’t keep it if she was unable to work. She was wondering about disability and waiting for a diagnosis to possibly start that process. I would have been screaming and crying. She was calm. I gained a lot of respect for her throughout this process.

So there is an older ENT in town. When someone mentioned him, I wondered, ‘Is he still alive?’ But we made an appointment with him even though she didn’t want to go that day, I urged her to keep the appointment.  She was tired of doctors and tests and no diagnoses. I know she was exhausted with the process. Months had passed with no diagnosis and no viable treatment options.

She was in there a long time. When she finally came out, she was elated. Her problem was not vertigo at all, but an imbalance. Not a zebra, just a horse. A regular horse! Her dizziness was caused by dehydration and too much salt. The fluid in the inner ear caused her balance problems and the balance problems caused dizziness and nausea. A horse! Not a zebra at all!

So now she takes a fluid pill and avoids fast food and keeps her salt intake to about 2000 whatevers a day. Oh, and she had to give up caffeine.

She does not suffer from a rare disease with no cure, instead she takes a fluid pill every day and eats healthier and avoids salt (fast food) and she’s drinking root beer and mostly water and feeling fine and her hearing no longer fluctuates.

That is what experience does for you. It lets you concentrate on the horses and not waste time searching for zebras that aren’t there.

But I think if it had been a zebra, this ENT doctor would have spotted it right away. There’s nothing like experience.

Thank goodness for experience and most especially, thank goodness for ENT doctors with experience.



  1. Your poor daughter! How awful to go through such a frightening, debilitating experience! I so glad she was finally diagnosed correctly and no longer suffers with dizziness and everything else. Thank goodness she went to that older, more experienced doctor!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much. I really would have been screaming with frustration, but she came through it with grace. She lost all her independence for awhile since we had to get her groceries and things. She couldn’t even get a Coke unless we got it for her. I’m just glad we finally got a good and correct diagnosis.


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