Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

January 23, 2018

A Banana Pepper New Year

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 2:00 pm

It came on like I had been hit by a truck…A couple weeks before Christmas, at work, all of a sudden I was hit by an overwhelming sense of imbalance and dizzying unsteadiness.  It rocked me and scared the heck out of me.

For someone who has struggled with TBI balance dysfunction for more than twenty years now, even the slightest tweak to my still-whonkey balance system was enough to throw me sideways.

I made it through the holidays and, to be honest, I have no idea how.   The New Year and a visit from my cousin and then my birthday a week ago…

Still dizzy.

I had heard of many people having this so I imagined it a virus.  With the holidays, I just couldn’t deal with anything other than that so I figured out what helped and what didn’t and started to adjust.  Right after Christmas I went to a clinic.  Young and inexperienced, the woman couldn’t really appreciate how my walking is abnormal to begin with.  She was horrified and got right on the phone and called the hospital.  She told me I could phone a friend or she would call an ambulance but I was going.

There was cursing.

The hospital said I probably have crystals in my ear canal in the wrong places but that they didn’t fix that.   They said to try the meds I’d been on but to do them 3X as much.  After that didn’t work, I went to an ENT.  Two doctors said I did not have the crystals and we’d have to figure this out.  They put me through a battery of tests and they said my brain injury showed up in many.  Beyond that, they concurred that yes, indeed, I did have the crystals.   Off to therapy, they suggested.

Today it is exactly a month since I was able to work.  I have recognized in myself what I had long forgotten…that slow adjustment and adapting to a new reality.  The process I had gone through all the years ago after my brain injury didn’t get fixed month after month…

It’s lonely and isolating.  It’s frustrating.   We all know.  I’ve done the exercises I found on youtube and I’ve tried everything anyone has suggested as helpful.  Each day there are good and bad parts.  Kind of like brain injury living, really.

Although my peeps have been so supportive and helpful through this, there’s not much more to say when it’s gone on this long.  We’re all just trying to keep our hopes up and work the problems and plan for better.

I have fought to keep my spirits up and I have promised myself that this new year will not continue on like the old one ended.  I’m unwilling to accept this as permanent, even given how many people have piped in to tell me they’ve had this for 40 years and more.  What?????!!!!!!!

In honor of my personal determination to find answers and to keep seeking cures, I promised myself that I would change the new year.  I went to SubWay and ordered a whole different sandwich and asked for them to put banana peppers on it.

Take that!


Tomorrow I will make it to the therapy place two minutes from my house.  I will throw myself at their feet and plead for help.  So far, it has been days and weeks of waiting for appointments and results and next steps.  In between is the day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute struggle of living with an unsteady world all around me.

So I just wanted to send a shout out. I didn’t write during the holidays.  Didn’t get any cards out.  Not much great functioning.  But I wanted to say hello and to offer up that this is banana pepper day!!!

All of us fight the slow-slipping comfort of how we once were.  Maybe it’s as acute as brain injury.  Maybe it is as subtle as simple aging.  In any event, we all must choose to battle.  To throw down the gauntlet and to determine that we can make a good difference.  We can improve things.  We don’t have to just give up and accept things, even in the face of long, listless recoveries.

So here’s to you and here’s to me.  Here’s a finger in the eye of surrender.  Here’s to rallies and strategies and trying every new thing.

Here’s to banana peppers on a sandwich in the new year.   To all of us.  Hooo-Rah!!!!!!



  1. Good morning, oh my gosh. Since my tbi 7 years ago I too struggle with a sense of balance or lack thereof. The thought of what you are dealing with gives me the urge to send you a sincere hug. Here’s to banana peppers and to a sense of better soon!

    Comment by Elise — January 24, 2018 @ 10:04 am | Reply

  2. You are awesome, Elise. Big smiles here. Thank you :))))))

    Comment by karaswanson — January 24, 2018 @ 12:35 pm | Reply

  3. Oh my, I know of what you speak; the spinning, the frustration, and the unanswered questions! I have had this same experience, only for me it began about 1 and a half years after my injury, as opposed to your 20, so the instability of the situation was more of a regular occurrence. It was during a physical therapy session, when a vestibular therapist diagnosed the condition as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), at which point she used a head movement known as the Epley Maneuver to get things back to status quo, aka. put the crystals back where they belonged.

    I was told that it was not an unusual thing for TBI patients to have happen to them, due to blunt force trauma being a cause of the crystals becoming dislodged. Be aware that the maneuver is not a permanent fix, once the crystals become dislodged, they have a greater likelihood of doing so in the future. I have found an ENT who is well-schooled in both the condition and the maneuver and have had to utilize his services once or twice since this first occurrence.

    From your post it sounds like you are already well on your way to figuring this out, but I just thought I would share my own experience in case it could be of any help. I’ve found, at 8-years-out this February, the more we can come together in support and good will, the further we will improve. Enjoy your sub!

    P.S. I love banana peppers!

    Comment by Christine Nissly — January 24, 2018 @ 3:22 pm | Reply

    • Hey Christine! Bless your heart, you make me laugh. Thank you for that :)))) Sorry to hear you know of this lousy situation. I’m glad you found a good way through it. I am hoping to be reporting similar progress. I talked to a rehab place today and asked them specifically if they can do the crystal re-positioning. They said they can and I start tomorrow at noon. At this point, I’m praying they can literally straighten me out. Ha. Thanks again for your good vibes and well wishes. xo Kara

      Comment by karaswanson — January 24, 2018 @ 4:50 pm | Reply

  4. Hi Kara,
    I had the crystal incident about a year and half ago. (14 years after my TBI) It came on very suddenly similar to yours. I went to physical therapy 2 times and I have been fine since. I am careful about not turning my head quickly and going to the chiropractor because this can get the crystals out of wack. Hang in there and it gets better.I do understand how you feel because it brings back all those old feelings of the TBI. Love the banana pepper analogy. Sometimes you just have change things up.

    Comment by Natalie DeLuca — January 24, 2018 @ 6:05 pm | Reply

  5. Since my last message to you my vertigo has come back. Damn. I spoke to soon. It started on Thursday when I was getting my haircut. You know how you put your head back when they wash your hair? It happened. The room started spinning and I was all confused. I’m calling the dr. Monday for a script for Physical therapy. I’ll keep you posted.

    Comment by Natalie DeLuca — January 27, 2018 @ 1:17 pm | Reply

  6. Sorry to hear your dizzies are back. I think mine started at the hair salon. Same thing as you. I felt dizzy as soon as I sat up from the wash bowl. I’m in therapy now, three times a week. I have been cautioned that there are improvements and setbacks. I have already experienced several. A couple of sessions have afforded me up to 7 hours of relief before it returned. Today is really bad and whoozy and bobble head morning. Not fun. I feel for you. I cheer for us. They told me that 9 out of 10 WILL get better with this therapy. I’m counting on it for both of us. Hang in there. xo Kara

    Comment by karaswanson — February 3, 2018 @ 11:42 am | Reply

  7. Sorry ladies, I am late to the dance but I did experience vertigo prior to my accident. In order to get on, and stay on my feet I learned a self Epley technique. This is useful in conjunction with therapy or at first telltale signs.

    At the side of your bed sit in the center. Make sure you have enough room at either end to lie on either to your right or left side. I start by turning my head to the left, chin in line with the left shoulder, when I feel relatively stable I let myself fall to the right so that the right side of my face is flat on the bed, feet still hanging toward the floor. Now wait for the spinning to settle, in the beginning this may take a while. When it does, and it will, sit up, turn your head in the other direction and flop to the other side. Lather, rinse and repeat each side three times. Do this two or more times per day.

    Many a day at work has found me in the ladies room, flopping right, left, right on the nasty public couch with a piece of paper hand towel between me and grimy fabric. The things we do to carry on …

    I’ve included a link below in the website area for more self care.


    Hold the pepper, I’d rather just the banana.

    Comment by Jenn Borgesen — March 14, 2018 @ 9:57 pm | Reply

    • Hi, Jenn! Thanks for writing 🙂 Yes, I have learned the Epley. I have been through five weeks of PT now and my therapist has fixed my ear canal crystal that was causing some of the hardship. Unfortunately, some imbalance remained and, no matter how many times I did the Epley, it always came back. We had been assuming I just had the one problem with the ear canal crystal. Now I find that I also have an eye problem. Because of my TBI which compromised my foot input to balance and then the ear thing and now the eye thing, I really have had a time with it. Over three months now. I’m waiting for an appointment with a neuro-ophthalmologist now. Hopefully I can get some relief. I appreciate the input. Hope you are well. 🙂 Kara

      Comment by karaswanson — March 15, 2018 @ 9:48 am | Reply

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