Tag Archives: brad riddell

Cognitive Aspects of Superior Canal Dehiscence Syndrome

I received a tweet today from a fellow Superior Canal Dehiscence Syndrome sufferer, @ElzElz, which included this link to an amazing journal article on how vestibular disorders affect cognitive function. I nearly wept. The article details the whole picture, and when I sent it to my wife, she wrote — “Crazy! It totally describes you and your symptoms.”

I’ve had a  good day. Clearly, I’m blogging twice! I also drove 36 miles to Chicago, had a meeting, taught a three-hour class, took a call from brilliant producers and a director who gave me great notes on a script, and I will now drive back home in the snow. It hasn’t always been this good, and believe me, my head hurts and I’m tired. Not to mention, I forgot the names of students, actors, movie titles, and even mixed up a plot line or two in class (but my lecture kicked ass, if I do say so myself.) In my meeting, I felt like maybe I asked for clarification on several points I would normally have processed the first time. Those are small things. Workable things. And hopefully, fixable things. I’m grateful to be as functional as I am, but I’m thrilled that someone is researching the links between vestibular problems and cognitive function, as these are the long-terms symptoms I fear the most.

Perhaps plugging up this hole in my head will help keep the ideas and memories inside where they belong.

Craniotomy! (The movie) Staring “Honey Badger” Randall

I teach at the DePaul University School of Cinema and Interactive Media. It’s a long, fancy name for what is essentially a film school (a very good one at that, if I do say so myself). And in our school we have some totally AMAZING animators. Emmy-award winners, even! What you will see below is not their work, and it is not totally AMAZING, and there is no sound (who wants to hear a skull saw, anyway), but it does show the process of my coming surgery in a clear, easy to understand and sanitized, unbloody way. Worth a look if you’re interested. Makes it all seem like a no-brainer! (See what I did there?)

I should try to get Randall the “Honey Badger” guy to narrate this. Right?

It’s Who You Know

Not too long ago, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to do some rewriting work on a movie that was going into production. A certain public figure I had long admired performed a cameo in the film, and while I didn’t ever get to meet this person, I was able to write some of the dialogue he spoke, which I not so humbly bragged about to my friends and family.

Turns out, this person had superior canal dehiscence surgery shortly after the movie, and a quick email to the film’s producer landed me his contact information. He was eager to talk once I explained my situation. We chatted at length last week, and it was fantastic for me to speak with someone else about symptoms, diagnosis, surgery and recovery. While no doctor himself, our public figure felt surgery is probably the right choice for me, but recommended I seek the advice of his surgeon, Daniel Lee of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, who is regarded as one of the top docs in this field. My new friend emailed Dr. Lee after we hung up, and the good doctor wrote me back instantly.

Dr. Lee confirmed that my Chicago surgeon, Dr. Wiet, has an impeccable reputation, but given the scope of this surgery and its potential impact on my life, I felt it couldn’t hurt to have one more opinion, especially from a surgeon of Dr. Lee’s stature.  My images and medical records are on the way to him as we speak, for what will amount to a third opinion on my skull.

Hollywood has always been a “who you know” business, but it’s sometimes harder to find out exactly what you want to know. In this case, one movie helped me luck into both.

The Day I Was (almost) Diagnosed

This big dork sitting in a rotating chair wearing funny goggles to measure the movement of my eyeballs as I spun.

This big dork sitting in a rotating chair wearing funny goggles to measure the movement of my eyeballs as I spun.

We received the first real snow of Winter on 11/11/13, when my wife and I trekked into downtown Chicago to visit with Dr. Timothy Hain at Northwestern. Six hours of testing finally revealed a likely answer to a then five month quest for answers to my symptoms. The VEMP test on my right ear was off the charts and a very strong indicator, as was low frequency hearing loss, pulsatile tinnitus, measured and documented vertigo, and the fact that a tuning fork placed anywhere on my body would only hum in my right ear. It would take a high definition CT Scan to finally prove it, but we had a solid answer: Superior Canal Dehiscence.

I remember….

I remember the Outer Banks, taking my daughter fishing for the first time, and being completely unsteady on my feet crossing the pier. The planks seemed as if they were moving. The surf nearly knocked me over once we got into the water, and negotiating the sandy beach left my legs burning and exhausted.

I remember going the opening game of the NFL season to cheer on my (disappointing) Bengals as they played the Bears at Soldier Field. Our seats were very high. I didn’t move from my seat during the entire game for fear I’d fall over. I couldn’t even wear my prescription eye glasses because they caused me feel unsteady.

I remember going to a RUSH concert where the Blackhawks showed up with the Stanley Cup. If not for earplugs I never would have survived the concert. I felt swooney from the noise.

I remember cheering my Kentucky Wildcats as they opened the season against Michigan State in Chicago, and between my clapping and all the shouting in the arena (they lost), I felt my whole body was vibrating through that night and into the next day.

I remember going for a jog one week after running 6.5 miles in an hour, and stopping at the end of the block, turning around, and walking home because I was already exhausted.

I remember not being able to clearly understand what the University Provost and my colleagues were talking about three feet away, because I couldn’t filter out the noise.

I remember falling into my garden, destroying a broccoli plant, and fearing I had broken my hip.

I remember taking naps under the desk in my office because my computer screen would set my head to spinning so bad that I had to rest every 15 minutes.

I remember the horror of quitting caffeine and the sadness of abandoning bourbon.

I remember breaking down in tears upon my first visit to the vestibular therapist. She’s a tiny little lady, and I’m a 6’4″, 200 lb man, and when she did strength tests on me I could offer no resistance.

I remember not being able to remember how to put my little boy into his car seat.

I remember trying to write and finding that I had no words.

Interesting Stat

A friend of mine who specializes in Search Engine Optimization told me that roughly 1,300 people web-search the exact phrase “superior canal dehiscence” each month. That’s not many people given the web-surfacing population of the planet. What needs to happen, and I’d like to help if possible, is that when people google the most common SCDS symptoms like “pulsatile tinnitus,” or “I can hear my eyeballs move inside my head,” they are lead to good information that might allow them to investigate this disorder. People need to be able to connect the dots. Clearly everyone with tinnitus and low frequency hearing loss does not have SCDS, but if they also have autophony and some degree of vertigo, they just might. If people could see the symptom they searched appear along with the others that define this syndrome, perhaps they’d be able to get doctors to take notice and dig deeper.