How Terry Dow
Survived Meniere's Disease and Qualified for Medical
All of my life I had been plagued with sinus infections! As I
came through my teen years and into my early twenties, I attributed this to
having broken my nose three times. Then I moved from Ohio to Virginia (East
Coast) and the sinus infections seemed to get lots better. That lasted for
almost 9 years. I broke my nose (yes, one more time!) in my early thirties
after moving from Virginia to North Carolina. Then I moved from the East
Coast of NC to mid-state. For some reason, I started getting sinus
Try as I may, I could never find a reason for this. The two
main changes were that I moved away from the coast so I no longer had ocean
air to breathe and I went from working outside to working inside in a
cubicle environment. Maybe those things contributed... maybe not.
After working inside for about a year, the sinus infections
began to show up again. But this time, my ears began to be affected too. It
seemed that each time I would have BOTH infections instead of just one. As
an "added bonus", I began to experience dizziness, nausea, and ringing in my
right ear. As I look back now, that MUST have been the beginning of what has
changed my life forever!
MY EMPLOYER'S REACTION
Though my place of work has a very good Sickness & Accident
policy, after missing work for the third or forth bout of sinus and ear
infections, I was brought into my manger's office and was told that I was
missing too much work. (As a side note, my wife was pregnant with our second
child and was suffering from hyperemisis [excessive & violent vomiting] so
there were a few days that I called in to ask if I could work from home to
be with her). I had provided all the necessary documentation from my doctors
and also from my wife's OB doctor. But I was written up and put on what was
referred to as "the magic mile". What that means is that if I didn't comply
with all the listed provisions for 90 days, I could be terminated from my
job. (Now doesn't' t that just give you a warm feeling all over?) So I had
to sign that I agreed to that or I was given an option to RESIGN and they
would give me two weeks pay for each year I had been there as severance pay.
I had thirty days to decide but had to sign the papers right then and there.
On July 26, 1999, I once again went to the doctor with a bad
sinus and ear infection. I was referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT)
specialist. I was given a diagnosis of vestibular neuronitis and, due to the
loss of balance and the medications I was given, told that I should not
drive a vehicle or be alone too much. I was out of work until the end of
November 1999 when things got better and I returned to work.
I tried my best to make up for the time I had been out by
staying longer hours, taking on extra assignments, etc. That lasted until
August 18, 2000, which was on a Friday. I went into work that morning and
was feeling the start of another sinus problem. As the day wore on, it got
worse. I called my Doctor before I left work for the day and got an
appointment for that Monday. Over the weekend, it seemed that all
"you-know-what" was breaking loose! Not only did the sinus problem get
worse, but I fell to the floor without warning, threw up, had this buzzing
in my right ear that I couldn't get rid of and it felt like someone was
trying their best to expand my right ear canal WAY beyond its limits! I was
MISERABLE and spent the entire weekend in bed.
My wife took me to our Primary Care Physician on Monday and
she immediately sent me back to the ENT. I was sent to be tested at another
lab, have a CT scan and bloodwork done. I was put on antibiotics, more
medicine for dizziness and nausea. I was told I would be out of work for at
least one-two weeks. You can just imagine how THAT went over with my
In the meantime, my wife had reached 30 weeks into the
pregnancy with our daughter. But on December 11, 2000 she got up and got
sick immediately. We called the OB and he said to bring her to the office
NOW. We got there and they were having problems getting every beat of her
heart on the monitor so the doctor took us across the hall to do an
As I watched the screen, I could see my daughter's heartbeat
and I knew it was VERY slow. He called in another OB doctor and they agreed
that our daughter was IN TROUBLE and needed to be delivered by emergency
C-Section right away. The first doctor rushed to get his own vehicle and
drove my wife to the hospital which is only 2 blocks away. I was right
behind them. By the time they had me get into scrubs, the nurse came out and
told me that by the time they checked for a heartbeat on the operating
table, there was none. But they would do the c-section to see if they could
save her. Try as they might, it was too late and we lost our daughter,
Haylee Danielle. She was delivered at 11:24am, Dec. 11, 2000 weighing 2
lbs., 12 oz., 15.5 inches long.
She was physically perfect. There had been a placental
abruption (where the placenta pulls away from the uterus, cutting off oxygen
and bloodflow to the baby).
Once my test results came back, the ENT scheduled me for
sinus surgery on September 26, 2000. At this visit, I was told that this may
or may not help my problems otherwise. And I should not go back to work
until recovering from that surgery. So the surgery came and went, I
recovered from that, but the dizziness, ear pressure, nausea, and buzzing
continued. So I returned to the ENT the end of October and he sent me to an
Audiology and Balance Center where yet MORE tests were administered. I was
then told that I had BPPV (Benign Paroxsysmal Positional Vertigo).
The symptoms of BPPV include dizziness or vertigo,
lightheadedness, imbalance, and nausea. Activities which bring on symptoms
will vary among persons, but symptoms are almost always precipitated by a
change of position of the head with respect to gravity. Getting out of bed
or rolling over in bed are common "problem" motions. Electronystagmography
(ENG) testing may be needed to look for the characteristic nystagmus
(jumping of the eyes).
I was sent back to my ENT in mid-November 2000 and I told him
that I still was suffering from the same symptoms of dizziness, vertigo,
nausea, tinnitus, and pressure. He told me that there was nothing else he
could do for me and referred me to a Neuro-Otologist. My first appointment
was on December 5, 2000. I was tested there with an audio (hearing) test and
another ENG. I waited in the examining room with my wife until the doctor
came in. He talked, in GREAT detail, of the results of my tests. Then, with
real concern in his voice, told me that what I have is Meniere's Disease. I
looked at him and then my wife and said, "Well at least now SOMEBODY has put
a name on this thing! OK Doc, what do we do next to get rid of this thing?"
He face changed and he said, "Terry this isn't GOOD news. So far, there is
no cure for Meniere's Disease." I felt my heart drop and I felt like I
couldn't breathe! He then went on to tell me what treatments we could do and
what his plan of action was for me.
I really tried to take in all the information that he gave me
but knowing that I wouldn't be going back to work (at least for a long
while) combined with my wife's hyperemisis throughout this pregnancy had
taken its toll on me. The depression got worse and worse.
MY LIFE WITH MENIERE'S DISEASE
I was prescribed Celexa 20mg and Wellbutrin-SR. After taking
those for about three months, the depression really wasn't getting any
better so the Dr. switched it to just Paxil 20mg. Along with that, I was
given Allegra-D, Azmacort, and AquaTab-C all for the sinus'. For the nausea
I was given Mecklazine (Anti-Vert), for water retention I was given
Triamterene/HCTZ 75/50 mg. Also, because of the diuretic, I was given a
Potassium supplement to take each day.
These are just a few of the medications I am on. If you would
like me to send you a list of all the medications I have taken or am taking,
please click here. It is amazing that I am still functioning, let alone
coherent, with all these drugs in my system.
As time went by and my body adjusted to some of the
medicines, some were dropped and others replaced them.
Why do I tell you this? Because by all research that I have
done and all the doctors I have spoken to about Meniere's Disease, the
symptoms are made worse by stress and aggravation! Now spending the last 30
weeks with my wife sick EVERYDAY, trying to deal with my Meniere's Disease,
having to make sure that every doctor visit was documented on a special
company form and faxed to the medical department, losing our daughter, two
weeks until Christmas...... I kept asking, "HOW MUCH MORE AM I SUPPOSED TO
BE ABLE TO TAKE?????!!!!??"
Needless to say, the depression got worse. We made it through
the holidays (because we also have a son that was 5 at that time), but as
the year 2001 came to be, there was still no end in sight! I felt HOPELESS,
HELPLESS and WORTHLESS!
As I continued to go through treatments, take my medicines,
and go through the motions of living, each phone call that I made to or
received from my manager at work left me feeling more useless than anything
else. I was given another audio test and had lost 20db in the lower
frequencies and had become overly sensitive to the high frequencies.
As Winter was beginning to give way to Spring, I was
instructed by my manager that I HAD to file for long term disability and
Social Security Disability, which I did in March 2001. It took the company's
insurance carrier less than 60 days to deny my claim saying that Yes - we
realize that you have a disability but it is not SEVERE enough. As
Spring came to be, Social Security had also denied my claim for the same
reasons. I filed appeals to both places. I began to let myself HOPE again!
Surely they wouldn't turn me down again! I had gotten letters from my
doctors on my behalf saying what I could and couldn't do.
The last week of June 2001, I received an email from the
Medical Department at work that my Sickness and Accident pay would STOP on
July 24, 2001! All I remember thinking was what if they turn me down
again??? What will I do to support my family???? That week, I had three bad
drop attacks and vertigo that lasted for days!
During this brief time, my wife became pregnant again in
June. I thought, "Things are getting better! This has GOT to be a sign that
things are going to work out!" But I was wrong! On August 8, 2001, my appeal
was received and that week my wife began to be sick again... just like
Then September 11, 2001 came and there on the TV screen was
the end of a lifetime of dreams! I am at the end of the "Baby Boomer
Generation" and we have always been told that no one would dare come to
fight on US soil and I remember hearing that echoing in my head as I watched
the second tower crashed into by another plane.... then tower one crumbled
and fell.... then tower two...... ALL THOSE PEOPLE!!! ALL THOSE RESCUE
WORKERS!!!!!!!!! How could this be happening!?!?!?!?!?!? the next week I
began the series of Intratympanic Injections with the Neuro-Otologist. That
means getting a shot with a needle through the eardrum to inject steroids
into the inner ear.
As I watched people running for their lives, I remember the loud buzzing in
my ear, the nausea that washed over me like a tidal wave........ and I hit
the floor!!! What could be worse???
On October 5, 2001 I received a letter saying that I had been
denied for the second time. My wife was doing better with this pregnancy
than with the last one. They ordered a Level II Ultrasound and we found out
that we were going to have a SON! I remember thinking -- there is still
HOPE!!!! As I prepared yet another appeal, gathering letters from neighbors
and friends to add to the newest doctor letters, my wife and I made plans to
fix the nursery and I tried to busy myself with that on the few good days
that I was having. I tried to think of happier times to come.
Summer had officially given way to Autumn but you couldn't
tell it by the temperatures we were having. Most said we were into an
"Indian Summer". As we discussed what our son would dress-up as for
Halloween about mid-month, the phone rang and it was my Mom. The news was
not good. My Dad had been taken by Life-Flight to the hospital! She didn't
know if it was a heart attack or what. Since my Mom and Dad had divorced
when I was twelve, she had gotten the information from my brother in Ohio
and he was on his way to Pennsylvania (about a 2 hour drive) to where they
had taken Dad. No she didn't know the hospital name.
My Dad passed away from a brain aneurism about 30 minutes
before my brother arrived.
Halloween came and went, November began. The first
anniversary of losing our daughter was closing in and again... the holidays.
By now, the savings account had run out, I had borrowed money from family
and friends just to keep surviving. The phone rang constantly with voices
telling me they were going to repossess my vehicle, foreclose on my house,
etc. I hated to hear the phone ring!!!
The disability insurance company received my second appeal on
November 12, 2001 and the process began again. In the meantime, the second
denial came from Social Security as well. A friend recommended a good Social
Security attorney so I hired her to take my case. She looked at all my
documents and said she thought we had a real good chance to win at the
hearing stage so we went forward.
On November 28, 2001, my wife had a scheduled OB appointment
for 10:00am. She got up at 7:00 am as usual to get our son ready for school.
She woke me at 715am...something was wrong. She told me that she felt that
she was having a contraction that wouldn't let go! I felt her stomach... it
was rock hard. We took our son to school and went to the appointment early.
The nurse put her on the baby heart monitor . . . was that it? Too hard to
tell since she was contracting. Back across the hall to the ultrasound
machine. I watched as he scanned her hard belly.... I could see the
heart....... it wasn't beating! The doctor said nothing for another minute
but I knew. Before he spoke, I closed my eyes then looked up past the
doctor, past the machine.... I saw my Dad holding my son Jordan in his arms!
Dad looked at me, then looked at Jordan....... smiling, he nodded to me,
turned and walked away. I knew my son was gone. Then the doctor spoke.... "I
don't have any good news to tell you....." my wife and I cried. The doctor
had tears in his eyes too - "I am so sorry", he said.
Since there was no chance to save him or even to try, we went
on to the hospital, got my wife admitted, and they began to induce labor.
During that night while they induced her labor, there was no one there with
her but me and I would walk outside once in awhile. I had 3 drop attacks in
the hospital that night. Jordan David was delivered at 428AM on November 29,
2002 at 25 weeks, 3 days. He weighed 1 pound 5 oz and was 13 inches long.
This just HAS to be a nightmare!! It can't be happening all over
again........... can it?????
Thirteen days later, on December 11th, was the one year
marker date of us losing our daughter Haylee. Losing both our son and
daughter within the same year,,, how do I even start to try to explain the
feelings of emptiness and sadness?
I had more drop attacks in the next two weeks than I care to
remember! At times, it seemed as if there was only spinning, nausea, more
severe pressure in my ear, ringing and buzzing, headaches and then "brain
fog" followed by yet more attacks!
Christmas came and went and i can remember thinking that,
when our 7 year old was opening his gifts, that this would have been
Haylee's first Christmas. What a site that would have been! Kids are so cute
at that age especially with all the tree lights! My heart breaks a little
more each time I think about it.
I found myself thinking about what possible future could I
have? I haven't worked for 16 months, no income for 5 months at all, the
phone ringing off the hook ALL day with creditors threatening to foreclose
on my house, repossess my only vehicle, shut off the phone, shut off the
electricity and anything else you can think of. They all got tired of
hearing the same old story of me waiting for a decision on disability and I
got tired of telling it to them!
During this time I had decided that I was going to HAVE to
find a way to work from home! It was obvious that I couldn't go back OUT to
work and with disability looking so "50-50", I knew I would have to have an
alternate plan. My friends and relatives were to a point where they didn't
even want to take a call from me anymore just knowing what kind of shape I
was in. I had already gone through every bit of money that we had, borrowed
from my Mom, my brother, my best friend and neighbors. I had even sold my
stereo and guitars on Ebay to get money!
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