Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Pain in My Neck

[Begin reading with Eyes in the Back of My Head]

At the age of 23 (practically 24), I moved to Bloomington, Indiana, to begin work towards a Doctor of Music degree at Indiana University. If you've heard anything about the IU School of Music, then phrases like 'meat grinder', 'the factory', 'competitive' or 'cutthroat' come to mind. Now known as the Jacobs School of Music, it hosts more than 1600 students with about half being undergrads. Last year only about 20% of incoming freshmen who applied were accepted.

During my first visit home for Christmas break, my mother and I were driving home from a local mall are were rear-ended while at a stop. My head was turned as I was speaking with my Mom when the woman behind us hit the bumper while going about 5-10 mph. Not terribly fast, but fast enough to give me a good whiplash injury. I treated it conservatively at home and returned to school on schedule. However, I was having a hard time of it.

Back in Bloomington, I sought the expertise of a chiropractor who proceeded to do all the customary snaps, cracks, shocks, and massages. But relief was never sustainable. The pain did subside but I began having difficulty concentrating and experienced some vision problems. During the Christmas break, I had visited my opthamologist for the annual routine stuff and had received an updated prescription for contacts. I wondered if maybe the power were a little off.

So into the IU School of Optometry Eye Care Clinic I went. It's interesting when you go to a teaching facility for healthcare; often you will undergo duplicate testing for the benefit of clinical practice and opportunity for instruction. But I was the pro, having been indoctrinated to the eye care scene since the ripe age of four and blessed with coke-bottle glasses since adolescence. The warning given each year was to seek treatment immediately if new things developed, such as flashing lights, sudden blurriness, or unexplained changes in vision, as they can be signs of retinal detachment. Retinal thinning and the subsequent detachment are more common in folks as myopically-challenged as myself.

My actual visual acuity was fine; I passed the color tests; and the eyeball anatomy checked out fine. There was the issue though of the slightly larger appearance of my right pupil. Hmmm. Had that always been the case and I never noticed or was this something new? Off to find old pictures of myself to bring into so that the difference (if any) between my pupils could be measured at a previous point of time. Well, it was hard to tell and inconclusive at best.

What the optometry doctors/students determined was that my eyes were not focusing at the same rate which was causing my complaints. So they provided me with a visual device with which to 'exercise' my eyes in focusing and a pair of reading glasses to use when studying. Neither intervention helped and seemed to make matters worse.

I continued to have headaches, vision problems, and difficulty concentrating, all of which made pursuing academic endeavors rather challenging. Due to lack of improvements, or maybe even worsening of symptoms, the doctor wanted a radiologist to get a real good look of my intelligent brain. So during spring break in March, I took the doctor's order to the new MRI clinic in my hometown.

Turns out I did NOT have a tumor, but I also did NOT receive any answers behind the cause of my complaints. What I did get was a perfect picture of one contact lense on the eye which must not have flinched during the procedure. Pretty cool snapshot.

When the semester was over, I went home to Oklahoma and visited my father's chiropractor who took some x-rays and determined that my 'head was not on straight' - seriously that's what he said. He said that the previous chiropractor had made things worse by eliminating the natural curve in my cervical spine and leaving me with a substantial kink (my phraseology) at the base of the skull. I went to him during my summer break on a regular basis for treatment, primarily addressing the musculature of my neck, jaws, face, hips, and lower back. Did I forget to mention that this D.O. was thoroughly versed in the Rolfing Technique? Ouch!!! but by July, I was finally feeling and seeing much better.

So let's recap: stressful and competitive academic life, whiplash, vision problems, concentration problems, headaches, chiropractors, MRI, and no definitive answers.

To be continued...

Next: Tears on My Pillow


  1. Ah Oh! I think I know where this is going...sigh. But continue on as I thoroughly LOVE hearing your story.

    **waiting in anticipation**

    Linda D. in Seattle

  2. Yet another thing we have in common - I went to IU for one semester. (For the Ed program, in my case.) What year was it?

  3. You left me hanging! Please continue soon. Even though I'm pretty sure I know the ending (MS Diagnosis?), your telling is wonderful.
    Lazy Julie

  4. My right pupil was telling a tale early on too. Good writing Lisa,

  5. Gotta get a new laptop, make this short, what year u there queen? U live in IN? I got MS at age 10, I wonder what my life would have been like had I been diagnosed then.

  6. Ok, didn't dump me, kids with MS now, they say they do worse, I wondr if that is due to intervention, since I did so well for almost 20 years.

  7. At ten the symptoms lasted minutes, then day to days to week to weeks then to DR/MRI.

  8. Queen, I moved to Bloomington in 1992 and lived there until moving to DC in 1998.

    Thanks ladies. This storytelling thing is turning out to be really fun. I've actually got a plan now in my head. So more's a comin'.