dr daveA bull on Red Bull

Having decided that my medical skills needed honing I decided to attend a “medical conference” in Phoenix in order to improve my clinical acumen with a 9 iron. Arriving at the airport terminal, I rented a car at the Hurts rental agency.

“Would you like a compact sir?”

“No, I’d like a car.”

“For $10 more I can get you an upgrade.”

“Never drove one, but I’ll try it.” 

And so I revved off in my Hyundai Upgrade XL complete with driver side air horn, ABS, GPS, and IUD. I was most intrigued by the GPS (global positioning spies). Between stints at the “lectures” I would take off my spikes, hop in the Upgrade, and head off to some specific locations I wished to visit in Phoenix. Not having a clue how to get there, I would simply type into a small computer, the address of any place I wished to visit. The GPS would then bark out verbal directions as I drove. I never once consulted a map, a gas station attendant or the guy in the car next to me at a stoplight. I just listened as this tiny robotic woman inside the GPS told me exactly where to go (a feeling I know well). It was like getting driving lessons from my mother again. 

“Turn left here! Oops, you’re going the wrong way! Get ready to turn! 

Do up your fly!” The GPS always knew where I was in space and how to right me if I was heading in the wrong direction. It even got me to the Goatsucker Saloon where I wanted to ride the mechanical bull, in that we shared a nickname and all. "Start me at 10" I yelled to the operator in order to tell him what time to start the bull. But 10 on the bucking dial is ultrazippy, nasty, and fast. A bull on Red Bull.

Picking myself up off the dance floor, I stood up a little dazed, woozy, dizzy. My head was spinning.

With vertigo setting in, I was reminded of the righting reflex, learned about in medical school. As part of an experiment the professor would produce a cat. He would hold the cat upside down, then drop it. Just like the GPS, the cat would know that it was not facing the right direction in space and it would right itself before landing. 

The cat was then blindfolded. It was dropped upside down again. This time, with its visual stimulus to the retina blocked, the cat would land on its back with a thud and a hiss. The blindfold was then removed and the cat, none too pleased about being part of a medical experiment, would latch on to the prof’s scalp. We were all quite impressed by this feat and tried it on Jimmy Burns at the break. It appears that humans, when blindfolded and spun around like a top, will become disoriented, develop vertigo and may topple into medical school water fountains and possibly elevator shafts. Hence, our ability to balance ourselves relies on our vision, our inner ear and reflexes in our muscles.

Dizziness is not uncommon. A doctor must differentiate between the two types of dizziness, namely lightheadedness and vertigo. 

Lightheadedness signifies a disequilibrium. It occurs as a result of good red oxygenated blood not reaching the brain. Heart problems (the pump doesn’t pump properly), dehydration and low or lousy red blood cells (anemia) are among the culprits. A common cause of lightheadedness is simply the common flu. Vertigo, on the other hand, denotes an illusion of movement, a sensation that the room is whirling and spinning about, sort of like me on ol' mechanical Cactus Keyster. 

It usually involves a snafu within the inner ear (labyrinth). The labyrinth can be infected by a virus, affected by certain drugs or made defective by a condition known as benign positional vertigo (BPV). Vertigo may also be caused by a stroke, bull-headed trauma, MS, or from auditioning for the lead in The Exorcist. BPV, however, is the most common cause. BPV patients find a quick movement of the head in a certain direction sets off the spinning sensation. Debris, such as small ear stones or Mike Tyson’s teeth, collect in the wrong spot inside the labyrinth, creating a short in your GPS. Doctors can reposition the debris in a technique known as the Epley Manoeuver (named after the doctor who invented it, Dr. Manoeuver). After a quick repositioning, the doctor then yells “Fore” and smacks the side of your head with that Arizona 9 iron. The debris is knocked loose and departs the vertigo-sensitive part of the inner ear. Should the debris come flying out the other ear you'd best stop riding the bull. 

And should your doctor be stupid enough to ride a bull I suggest a new doctor. Get an upgrade.

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