As the Psych Unit Turns…and Churns…and Hummmmmms

(Preface: I have tinnitus in both ears and benign paroxysmal positional vertigo in my left ear. )

Today the hospital admins decided to test the emergency power system and the generator by turning off the power for not more than two hours, switching to emergency power/turning on the generator, and walking throughout the building noting where lights/electrical appliances were not working. Sounds easy, right?

The deaf staff probably thought the hearing staff were psychotic! The generator is right outside our wing of the hospital, and I could feel the sound in my eardrums. I had to move about in the hall until I found a spot where the generator’s hum-on-CRACK didn’t bother me as much. Even one of the deaf patients asked me what that noise was!

It sounded like sitting over the engine on a puddle jumper. Not really loud, just…there. Don’t know how to explain it. I did get a little of my own back though, when our psychologist who is deaf sat down at the nurse’s station desk and put her elbows on the desk, then jumped back because the rumbling vibration therein startled her.

The noise somehow set off my vertigo. I don’t know how exactly, or if it is a true physical reaction or a psychological one. The last time I had an episode was on the channel ferry to and from France back in August (and for a few days afterward!), and the generator sounded like the engine in the boat…hence psychological, something like state dependent memory. (ex: Last time I heard that same sound I was dizzy.) Or it might have been a true physical reaction because the generator is so close to our end of the building I could feel the sound waves. I could also feel pressure changes in my ears, and that can cause an episode as well.

Either way, it was miserable and followed by a test of the fire alarms in the building. Although it seems that someone thought they should crank up the volume on the alarm for the deaf unit…I was told it was actually that loud throughout the building. We don’t have the PA system so that we can hear it on the deaf unit (I know, seems common sense but there are some of us down there that can hear) so while most of us thought it was probably a test, we rounded up patients to head outside to be safe…only to meet one of our nurses at the door who let us know she’d heard the overhead announcement that it was a test of the system and not a drill.

Ugh…this morning I’m only having residual vertigo symptoms, but I haven’t gotten in the shower yet. If I tilt my head back to wash my hair and suddenly step on the tilt a whirl, I’m calling in sick.

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