A year ago, I fell, broke my elbow, and got a concussion. After elbow surgery with plate, rod, pins, and months of therapy, I felt blessed to rebuild strength and range of motion. But the dizziness from the concussion did not improve. My neurologist suggested getting a cane and going to a balance clinic. I agreed to use a cane, but I didn’t want to go to a balance clinic. I was tired of going to therapy. Surely, I could figure out how to solve my own dizziness because I was only dizzy when standing or walking not when I was sitting or lying down.
I thought “scientifically” about my dizziness and decided it was a physics problem, and, after all, I got an A in physics 101. I could do this.
I would keep my arms by my side when walking because perhaps my peripheral vision was seeing the swinging and contributing to the dizziness.
I would wear shoes where my toes could spread out that would provide a larger area of support.
I would take tiny steps and drag my feet if necessary to keep in contact with the floor more often.
I would only look straightforward because looking to the right or the left increased my dizziness.
I would only give eye contact to people about my same height because looking up or down increased my dizziness.
I would increase my ability to balance by pretending to be on a balance beam. I was sure this was what a therapist would have me do.
After trying the above for several months, I called my neurologist for a referral to the balance clinic. During the initial testing in a harness, I fell four times. At the end of the appointment the technician said, “You know you failed today, right?”
Over the next three months at the balance clinic, I learned that everything I was doing was keeping me dizzy and preventing me from getting better. My balance therapist actually laughed out loud at some of my ideas. I learned that taking normal-sized steps and that swinging my arms was the body’s way of keeping balanced. She instructed me to curl my toes to grip. I practiced walking with my feet parallel to my hip sockets, not foot over foot as on a balance beam. I practiced looking to the right and left, up and down, and stepping over obstacles while walking. I practiced standing in a corner, on a foam pad, on one foot, with my eyes closed over and over until I could do it without having to grab on to the wall to keep from falling. I walked up and down ramps and stairs and uphill and down on grass, gravel and asphalt. And I got less and less dizzy.
I wasted precious time by trusting in my own understanding when experts with years of training and experience were readily available.
I am likening this experience to what I see in those who are taking precautions against COVID-19 and those who are not. Some families with young children are having play dates and treating the time off from school as a vacation. Some families with returning missionaries are acting as if nothing has changed with dozens of extended family coming to the airport with hugs for everyone. Teens and young adults continue mingling face-to-face, throwing caution under the bus. It will take all of us to defeat the “bad bugs,” as my four-year-old great grandson calls the virus.
The truth is that the fewer people who take the precautions outlined by experts, the more everyone is at risk and the more restrictions will be put in place. Each of us can choose to be either part of the solution or part of the problem. Like my prideful response to my dizziness, I know even less about COVID-19. I’m going to trust the experts and shelter in place.