Vision Specialists of Michigan, Patient Stories

From Birth until 7: Daily Dizziness, Vomiting, and Exhaustion – My Son’s Story

When I had my son I was a first-time mom and was surprised by how often my beautiful baby boy “spit up”. It seemed more like projectile vomiting to me, in the house, in the baby swing, in the car; before, during and after eating; in the middle of the day and the middle of the night. Everyone assured me it was just normal “spit up”— including the doctors.

My baby also had “torticollis” which caused him to lean his head one way and refuse to turn the other way. The doctors had us work with him and force him to turn his head in the other direction, and we also used blocks in his car seat to force his head to stay straight.

Later, we learned he was hearing impaired. But something just didn’t seem right to me concerning the vomiting. Even though I was a new mom, I knew something was terribly wrong with my child. When he was about one year old, when he started to walk, his eyes would roll back in his head, he would shriek and turn green and clammy. Then he would fall to the ground and start to vomit uncontrollably. Sometimes the vomiting would last 10-12 hours, with my son falling asleep in between periods. I had to hold him upright in bed because as soon as he would lie down he would vomit and scream.

This condition was almost daily. One month my son had these “attacks” for 21 days straight. I was sent to every kind of doctor and had hospital stays. I was sent to neurologists, ENT’s, University of Michigan’s Balance Center, Grand Rapids Center for Hearing and Balance, even spent an entire week at Mayo Clinic having doctors from all different specialties conferring and testing. He was diagnosed with Meniere’s, Inner Ear Disorder, Balance Disorder, Migraines …and on and on. But no one was “sure”, and no treatment helped.

During this time I had trouble keeping a job. I had to leave several jobs because I had to call in so much that I knew they were going to fire me. I was literally calling in several times a week. I tried to work at home and care for my child. It was exhausting. Many nights each week he was up all night vomiting and screaming and we didn’t get any sleep at all, and then I had to go to work.

The worst part was all the years of no hope. That, and people around me not understanding. “Just accept it. Stop trying to figure it out.” I couldn’t stop! This was my child and it tore my heart out daily to see him so sick and so miserable. I am not a quitter and I knew that I would turn over the Earth if I had to, in order to find him some help. Also, it wasn’t practical to try and live this way. He couldn’t ride a bike, go on a swing, go in a car, sled down a hill, attend school regularly, or enjoy just being a kid. He had also developed severe anxiety. He had gotten to the point over the years where he would tell me he was spinning inside and he was afraid to go places in case the spinning started. We were prisoners to this dizziness.

Some people treated me like I wanted my child to be sick, like I was exaggerating. (This included many doctors). Family blamed me for his illness: “You feed him too much salt! You shouldn’t let him swim!” Anytime he got sick, someone would have some comment on how I might have done “something” wrong.

Not only was this emotionally exhausting, physically exhausting, financially debilitating, it was also affecting my relationship with other people and put a huge toll on my marriage. My husband would say, “Other wives take care of sick kids and don’t complain,” but this wasn’t the occasional sickness – this was constant almost 24-7 sickness. I was overweight, I was unhappy and totally exhausted. I had caregiver burnout and didn’t even know it. I wasn’t able to take care of myself at all, and the worst part? I felt totally guilty for feeling bad. I mean, I wasn’t the one sick and throwing up and spinning every day of my life! Add a heaping pile of guilt onto me and I was one overwhelmed mom.

We all learned to cope, but it was never easy. A second child, and Z.S. was now seven. I never gave up searching. I went back to the Michigan Ear Institute and met with one of the founders even though I had been there years before with no luck. We gave him two thick files on my son. MRI’s, CAT scans, you name it, audiology tests, etc. He reviewed with a team and had me track some things for a few months. Finally, he gave me his verdict: he had no idea what it was, but maybe a doctor in Birmingham could help us. She worked with Vertical Heterophoria and maybe she would have an idea.

Honestly, I was so over it. I doubted that this would yield anything. It was a 2.5 hour drive, with a dizzy kid. I called Dr. Debby and said I wanted to ask questions before we came and wasted our time. She was so sweet and her concern was genuine. She said, “When you look in that beautiful boy’s face, do you ever notice his eyes are slightly not aligned? Or his photos show a head tilt?” No. I never notice that. I decided to give one more thing a try (I had also tried alternatives: diet, chiropractic, muscle testing, pulse reader from India…).

The day that we went to Dr. Debby was the day that changed our life. It was July 7, 2007, and he was fitted for prism glasses. I can say that from July until today (2.5 months later) my son has not gotten sick once!!!!!!! He is riding a bike, staying at school, has not gone to sleep and woken up dizzy. He was on Cloud Nine the first three days. He was hyper, ecstatic and full of energy. “My life is totally changed. She changed my life!” He would say about Dr. Debby. I think that finally for the first time in seven years my son was not sick / dizzy. He never knew anything other than being dizzy. This truly has been a miracle.

My son’s dizziness is gone, the vomiting and the sleepless nights are gone, he can go to school and stay, he rides his bike, he runs around and one night he wanted to go here and there and here and there and I said, “What is with you? You are so hyper lately?” He said, “Mom, I was always dizzy or afraid I was going to get dizzy – that’s why I laid on the couch all day…I was too scared to go anywhere. Now, I’m not afraid.”

VS of B and Dr. Debby have totally changed our lives. One thousand percent. They did what U of M could not do, what the Mayo Clinic could not do…I am soooooo grateful for the wonderful help and life changing glasses. I prayed every night for seven years that someone, somehow, would help us…this was a long, long wait but THANK YOU FOR BEING AN ANSWER TO A PRAYER…

– JC, 38 year old mother of
– ZC, 7 years old (and dizzy free!)