This is a tutorial on how to offend as many Americans as possible with one sentence. Step 1 - copy the title of this post. Step 2 - post it on social media. That's it, you're done.
For any Americans reading this, yes, we know your situation is worse. You live in a joke of a country in regards to healthcare. Canada is at least slightly better. But that doesn't mean it's great, or even good. At least not for me.
I suffer from Meniere's Disease. If you have no idea what that is, I don't blame you. It's kind of rare. It supposedly affects about 1 in 2000 people. I happen to be one of those lucky few, and believe me, it's nothing to celebrate. This is a horrible, brutal disease that affects nearly every facet of my life.
Let me explain. Meniere's Disease (abbr. MD) is a vestibular disorder, which is a balance disorder of the inner ear. No one really knows what causes it. It's not even specifically a definable thing, it's just what you call this collection of symptoms when you've ruled out all other possible causes.
I'm 'lucky' enough to have what has been described by multiple doctors and specialists as 'textbook Meniere's', meaning I experience every possible symptom in the most common way that other people with this disease do. One of my specialists said he could have diagnosed me with MD just from the way I described my symptoms, without any testing.
So what are the symptoms? The main one is vertigo, or the feeling of movement when there isn't any. Then there's sensorineural hearing loss, which typically occurs in the lower register in the affected ear(s). MD sufferers will all have tinnitus, which is a permanent ringing or 'whooshing' sensation in the ear. You'll get a feeling of fullness in the ear as well, like your ear is plugged after swimming. There's also two less common symptoms that I experience, which is light and sound sensitivity. Whew.
Vertigo is the most pervasive. It's similar to being dizzy, but vertigo has a rotational element. My head feels like I'm being spun around in a diagonal pattern while I'm sitting still. Sufferers of MD will have vertigo attacks, where you suddenly feel an extremely intense form of vertigo for anywhere from 20 minutes to 24 hours. I am no exception to this. I have had many attacks in the 6 years I've suffered from this disease.
My worst attack happened last year. I was feeling relatively OK, sitting at my computer, when out of nowhere my head starting spinning like crazy. Since I have had so many attacks, I know what to do when they start, as long as I am at home when it happens. Luckily, almost all of my major attacks have happened at home. Usually when an attack happens, I try to grab a Betahistine pill and quickly try to choke it down before the vertigo ramps up too much. At full blast, I can't move my head at all, so it's imperative that I take the pill quickly. It helps mitigate the vertigo a little bit.
Unfortunately, this time it hit me so hard and so fast, and I had no water nearby, so there was no way I could choke the pill down. I had to just quickly stumble to my bed and lay down to ride it out. This is how I deal with attacks. Lay down on my bed with the lights off, and wait for it to stop. Vertigo attacks are always accompanied by extreme nausea, for obvious reasons. Most people violently throw up after an attack. I used to, but I really hate the sensation of puking so I figured out how to not puke. I basically just don't allow myself to throw up, because I think feeling nauseated is better than actually upchucking.
So I get to my bed and stare straight at the ceiling to try to control the spinning. But this time, there was no controlling it. It was unbelievably intense, much worse than any attack I had ever felt before. It lasted for 4 hours, where most of my attacks are over in less than 90 minutes. By the third hour of this intense spinning, I was ready to end it all. If I had a gun within arm's reach, I would have pulled the trigger. I wouldn't be here typing up this post. That's how bad it was.
Imagine that dizzy sensation you get after riding one of those 'spinning spaceship' carnival rides. Now times that by about 100, and make it last 4 hours instead of a minute. About halfway through I had a mini panic attack, which happens sometimes with my bad vertigo episodes. I started to have trouble breathing, and my hands and feet went tingly.
Finally, the attack ended. But, the problem with a vertigo attack is that once the main event ends, you have to deal with the encore. An attack is always followed by a period of unspecified length, which I call the recovery period. During this time, I will experience all of the MD symptoms in an unpredictable way. The vertigo will range from mild to intense at random. My ear feels fuller and my hearing worsens. The tinnitus gets louder and more intense. I become extremely sensitive to light and sound.
After an attack, I can't leave the house without my darkest sunglasses and earplugs, or acoustic filters (I use these cheap ones). I can't go to any busy places, as the feeling and sight of people moving around me throws off my equilibrium and makes my head spin. I can't be around bright fluorescent lights, even with my sunglasses on. I can't be in a grocery store for more than 15 minutes without feeling like I'm going to have another attack (see Visual Vertigo Syndrome, AKA Supermarket Syndrome).
This 4 hour attack had a recovery period of about 5 months. That's nearly half a year without being able to leave the house for more than an hour. That's 20 weeks of spending most of my day lying in bed in the dark with sunglasses and earplugs, staring at the ceiling. Not fun.
Now that you kind of know what it's like to live with Meniere's, let's talk about my wonderful experience with Canadian healthcare and welfare. My journey started about 6 years ago, while I was living in Calgary. I had started to experience mild vertigo symptoms. Not specifically attacks, just general feelings of vertigo. I had no idea why, as this was something I had never experienced before. After it didn't go away for a few weeks, I finally decided to go see a doctor.
I had no family doctor, since I hadn't had any major or minor health issues previously that would warrant one. So I went to a walk-in clinic. The doctor did some simple balance tests, and told me that I might have BPPV. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo is sort of similar to Meniere's, but the attacks are much shorter, and there's no hearing loss, tinnitus, or any of the other MD symptoms. It's caused by a crystal in the inner ear becoming dislodged, and a series of movements called the Epley Maneuver can be done to move the crystal back into place.
The doctor told me to look up how to do the maneuver on Youtube and do it whenever I felt 'spinny'. The Epley Maneuver is typically supposed to be done by a doctor or physiotherapist, so I think it's a bit strange not to refer me to one, but whatever. For the next few weeks, every time I felt vertigo I would lie on my bed and do the maneuver. It couldn't tell if it was working or not (obviously it wasn't), and after a little while my vertigo basically completely subsided. For the next year or so I just forgot about it.
During that time, I moved from Calgary to Greater Vancouver, BC (Coquitlam). Moving to BC had some unintended consequences though. I really don't understand why anyone tries to say that we have free healthcare in Canada. We don't. We have universal health care, which is different. It's not free, we pay for it with our taxes. But this is especially true in BC, at least until 2020 that is. If you didn't know, BC residents are required to pay each month for the Medical Services Plan. Premiums scale based on your income, but it tops out at $37.50 per person, per month.
When my girlfriend and I moved out to BC, we had no idea that MSP even existed. No one told us. We were naïve enough to believe that we didn't have to pay extra for healthcare in Canada. She was working for a big company in Calgary, and was able to transfer out to a different location in BC. Her company was covering our MSP premiums. We didn't even know this.
After about 6 months, she had to leave that job. Since there was no one to pay for our MSP premiums, we started getting billed for it. But because of an issue with our landlords and us not receiving mail on time, we didn't get any notice that we had to start paying for it until a few months had passed. At this time, I was just starting to work for a new company in Burnaby. My company didn't cover MSP. I wasn't making very much money at all, barely enough for the two of us to get by.
When we finally found out about MSP, we owed hundreds of dollars already. We couldn't pay it off. So we did the dumb thing that poor people seem to do, and we forgot about it. Pushed it aside. Obviously it kept growing. We didn't know that we could have our premiums lowered based on our income, so we were being charged the maximum rate the whole time.
We're only just now getting all of this sorted out, 4 years later. We recently managed to pay everything off, and we're actually in talks with people from MSP about getting a return on what we overpaid since for a lot of the time we were making barely any money. We'll see how that goes.
So about that company I started working for. My position required me to travel over 50% of the time, all across Canada and sometimes the US. I started to notice that every time I landed back into Vancouver, I would get a splitting pain in my left ear and then basically go completely deaf for the next few hours in that same ear. It would only happen when I landed in Vancouver though. I believe this is because the landing runway runs from West to East, so the planes need to swing out over the ocean to orient themselves with the runway. This change in pressure must have been causing the pain and hearing loss.
I dealt with it for a few months, but began to notice that the hearing loss seemed to persist way after landing at YVR. My hearing was now always slightly worse in my left ear than my right. I also started to feel pressure in my ear. My vertigo started to return after a minor attack. I thought my BPPV was back, so I tried to do the Epley Maneuver again. But this time things felt different. I started WebMD-ing the hell out of myself, and stumbled upon Meniere's Disease.
It seemed to fit. The only symptom I didn't have was tinnitus. But I read that tinnitus might take time to show up. I still didn't have a family doctor, so I went to a clinic again. This time I got referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist (ENT). But of course, since my condition wasn't urgent, I had to wait. I think it was about 4 months. During that time my condition got quite a bit worse for a few months. Then, out of nowhere, I started to feel almost completely fine. My hearing was much better and the vertigo attacks stopped.
Of course, this perfectly coincided with my first ENT appointment. They did a hearing test on me, and it showed that my left ear was just barely worse than my right. Not indicative of anything, especially not Meniere's. I'm pretty sure the ENT thought I was lying about my symptoms. I guess it sounded like I was exaggerating since I was basically listing off the symptoms on the WebMD page for Meniere's. He told me to come back in another 3 months to see what my hearing was like. After that time, my hearing was only slightly worse, but my tinnitus had made its grand entrance, so I was finally allowed to get tested for MD.
The testing was to be done at the Neuro-Otology unit at Vancouver General Hospital. But here's where the real waiting began; my appointment was a long 6 months away. Half a year of struggling with attacks and hearing problems, which were starting to affect my work. My job required me to be on the phone and use a headset, and I had to switch ears because I couldn't hear the callers anymore. I wasn't able to listen to the phone and hear my colleagues at the same time. I started missing work after some attacks. I still had to travel, which was much more of a risk now that I could have an attack while out of town or on a plane.
But then, a stroke of luck. It was a few days before my testing at VGH, and I had a pretty major attack. I had honestly never been happier to have one, because now the tests would have to be accurate. I was nearly completely deaf in my left ear come appointment time.
Meniere's testing typically consists of an VNG and a caloric test. I got a pair of goggles strapped to my head, which work as a blindfold. The nystagmus of my eyes is measured in darkness, and since I have nothing to focus on, they can spin around at will. This is measured by the goggles. My girlfriend recorded the output, see below.
Then, for the caloric test, they blasted hot and cold water into my ears to see how my inner ear reacted to it. That was fun. Since this was the first time I was at a specialist with significant hearing loss, they were also able to squeeze me in for a quick hearing test to record how bad it was after an attack. I had significant hearing loss in the lower register, which is very indicative of MD.
My experience getting tested at VGH was probably the best medical experience I have had in my entire MD journey, and I will not hesitate to name drop the amazing doctor that did my testing. His name was Dr. Art Mallinson and he was extremely helpful and reassuring when he told me that the VNG and caloric had confirmed that I had a vestibular disorder. This was the first time in over 3 years that I had received confirmation of this, and it was definitely an emotional time. He guided me through a lot of things and ensured I was not feeling too hopeless when I left. He even told me immediately after the testing what the results were, instead of just sending them to my ENT and making me wait.
I went back to see my ENT a few weeks after the testing at VGH. I had already been told the results, but only my ENT could make an official diagnosis. Some would say this is a very important moment in someone's life, being told they suffer from a debilitating, incurable disease. I was in and out of that appointment in 15 minutes, and 10 minutes of that was a hearing test. He basically just told me to watch my salt intake, don't consume caffeine and don't drink alcohol. That's it. I felt pretty insulted by this, but I'm a big boy, so I got over it.
But notice how I said that the testing confirmed a vestibular disorder, and not Meniere's Disease? To understand why, you need to understand what MD actually is. Like I said before, it's not really any specific thing, it's just what you call this collection of symptoms when all other possibilities have been ruled out. Possibilities which include SSCD, Acoustic Neuroma/Vestibular Schwannoma, and BPPV, among others.
The testing I went through only confirmed a vestibular disorder. It didn't rule out all other possibilities. It only confirmed that I definitely didn't have BPPV. So now, before permanent treatment options could be pursued, we needed to rule out the other options as well.
My ENT told me that it's likely MD but we still need to do more testing to narrow it down. First step was an MRI to count out an Acoustic Neuroma. This is a small tumor behind the ear that can give you the same symptoms as MD. Cue 4 month wait time. Another month and a half wait after that for results. Negative. I don't have a tumor. Fantastic.
Let's get back to my personal/working life for a bit. I was still working at the same company and still traveling often. But things were starting to unravel. Traveling was a risk for me, one which I didn't want to continue. I was also having major problems with management at my company. I ended up quitting after a colleague left and I was given all of his duties and responsibilities without being asked and without being given a raise or promotion. This meant more travel. Hell no.
Interestingly, I applied for Employment Insurance without taking it very seriously, because I thought there was no way I would get it after voluntarily quitting. But, after explaining how they violated my contract and gave me a 'promotion' by force, EI sided with me. I didn't even apply for sickness benefits, just standard EI, and was approved. I was able to live well enough off EI payments for the next 4 or so months, and during that time, my health started to improve.
Stress is a major factor with MD, and my position had it in spades. I didn't know it at the time, but I was experimenting with eating low-carb/keto for other health reasons, and this was also contributing to lessening my MD symptoms. For the next 6 months or so, I felt almost normal. But eventually EI ran out, and I hadn't been able to find another job that paid nearly as well as my previous one. It had been over half a year since I quit, and my former manager/nemesis was no longer managing the department I worked in.
Since I needed to get back to work, I met with the new manager, and decided to give it another shot. I was actually living out of a camper van at this point, but that's a story for another day. After getting back into the swing of things, I soon realized that the new manager was bad in a much different, but equally bad way. So I quit again before my probation period ended. I was done with this company. Moral of the story; don't work for a family business when you're not part of the family. It's a mess.
I had a plan when I quit the second time. Since I was already living in a camper, and since spring was just beginning, I decided to try to find a job as a campsite host for the summer. I wanted one near civilization with RV hookups, but all I could find was a backwoods campground with no power or plumbing at all. I gave it a try anyways.
Problem is, my new 'bosses' completely lied to me about my duties and the state of the campground. They didn't just want a host, they wanted someone to landscape, bushwhack, and basically do physical labor for the entire summer to fix up the place. Even if I wanted to do this, I couldn't, since my condition requires me to take great care and attention with certain physical activities. They also told me that it would be fine to use my camper van, even though every other host uses a travel trailer with a pickup truck.
My van could not handle the drive out there at all. The road was treacherous, and I would have to make the drive to and from the campsite once a week to deposit cash and get rid of trash (poetry!). I lasted one night before giving up and heading home. But luckily, I had another job lined up through a family friend. It was a startup company that was an offshoot from an existing one in Edmonton, AB. I started working for them remotely in BC, but eventually moved to Edmonton when things got more serious. I signed a 1 year lease for a decent apartment in a sketchy area. It was great.
I had to get a new ENT in Edmonton, especially since I was starting to feel my symptoms coming back. Another 3 month wait later, I met with the new one. This specialist was definitely better than the one I had in BC, but was still a bit frustrating to deal with.
Here's one of the most ridiculous parts of the story. After moving from BC to AB, for whatever inane reason, my records couldn't be transferred over to my new specialist. We had to completely start from scratch with the testing. Had I known this, I probably wouldn't have moved. I had to wait another 3 months to do the exact same VNG and caloric testing in Edmonton. The results were obviously identical.
We followed this up with a CT scan to rule out SSCD, which is a dehiscence (gap) in the ear canal which can also cause MD-like symptoms. Results were negative. At this point, it's more or less confirmed that I have Meniere's. The other most prevalent possibilities have been ruled out. So now it's finally time to discuss long term treatment options, since the recommended diet changes and prescriptions I had been taking for years wasn't doing much to help.
My ENT wanted me to get Endolymphatic Sac Shunt surgery. This is where they cut open your bad ear, poke a hole in the fluid filled sac, and insert a small tube. Supposedly, when the fluid in my inner ear would build up too much, this shunt would expel a few drops out of the sac, to be harmlessly absorbed into my body. I wasn't really on board with this, since from everything I've read about it, it doesn't seem like it will make much of a difference. I was looking for a permanent fix. But, I entertained it because at least it's something.
Problem is, this is a rare surgery. No one in Edmonton can do it. No one in Western Canada can do it. The only options are to go to a specialist in Quebec, or travel to the US to get it done. Obviously I choose Quebec, because not everything would be covered by our wonderful healthcare if I went down south.
Do you see where I'm going with this? No offense to the Québécois, but they're not super receptive to people from other provinces. My ENT wasn't able to get through to them to schedule the surgery. They tried for months. Obviously they spoke French, and weren't super willing to converse in English. Eventually my ENT just gave me the surgeon's name and phone number and told me to try to contact them. I didn't bother. It was obvious this surgery wasn't going to happen.
Back to my work life again. After settling in to the job in the new city for a few months, things were beginning to fall apart. My diet situation was a mess because of job stress and not making enough money to keep up with my keto meal plan. My health started to deteriorate again. The attacks started to come back with force. I had to quit the new job, not just for health reasons, but also because of a major miscommunication of my responsibilities. What they actually expected of me was way out of my area of expertise, comfort zone, and ability.
I had worked for this company for over 6 months, but while working in BC I was being paid in cash. I wasn't able to claim EI sickness benefits because on paper I had only worked there for 4 months. Remember when I talked about the worst attack I've ever had? This was when it happened. Now there was no hope of working again for the immediate future, and I needed a more permanent solution.
So, I began to pursue support from AISH. This is a provincial program for severely handicapped individuals. From the research I had done, my condition should make me eligible. But this is a very strict program with an intense application process. It's not easy to get into. First of all, I needed a family doctor. You need testimony from both a GP and a specialist to get approved.
I managed to find one through a family friend. I made it clear at my first appointment that my only goal was to apply for AISH and hopefully get approved. The new doctor was supportive, and actually had personal experience with a family member who suffered from Meniere's. This was fantastic (not for the doctor's family member, though) and gave me a renewed hope.
But that didn't last long. Between waiting on appointments with my ENT and waiting for test results, it took 6 months before I could even apply for AISH. Then, when I dropped off my application at the main Edmonton office (no way I was waiting for snail mail) I was told the wait period was also 6 months(!) to find out if I was approved.
This time was absolute hell. I was a recluse because of recovering from The Big One, and me and my girlfriend were quickly falling into financial ruin. Unemployment in Alberta was (and still is) very high, and the only job she could find was part time for minimum wage. It's nearly impossible to get full time hours in retail type positions in AB.
Now, there are other immediate options in AB for financial assistance. Alberta Supports offers income support in a piecemeal or ongoing basis. So while waiting to file my application for AISH, we pursued this support to cover us in the meantime.
But guess what? While working part time minimum wage, my girlfriend was making too much money for us to qualify for ongoing support. The cutoff was a measly $956 a month for a family of 2. She made just over a thousand dollars a month in take home pay. When I was told this, I was incredulous.
Our rent was $925. That's the cheapest we could find in Edmonton. Our apartment wasn't even a 1-bedroom, it was a Junior 1-bedroom, which is barely a step above a studio. We were locked into a lease so we couldn't even get anything cheaper.
I asked the Alberta Supports rep how we are supposed to live on that amount of money. She said we pretty much can't, but that's just the cutoff the government set. It didn't matter that with groceries and our other bills we would need close to $1500/month. I even cancelled the insurance on my car and put it into storage (my dad's garage) over the summer to save money, but that wasn't remotely enough to live on.
The only thing we were eligible for was 'one-time support'. The problem with this is that it can't be claimed for consecutive months, and you have to have a specific reason to be able to claim it. We were only granted this support 3 times in a 10 month period, which didn't do much to help. I tried to work for Skip the Dishes whenever I was well enough to, which was not very often. You can read about that mess of a company right here. I had to stop after putting the car into storage, obviously.
Eventually our lease expired, and since there wasn't much tying us to Edmonton, we decided to move back to Calgary where we both have family. We moved into a house with one of my sisters to save on rent. Of course, since we moved again I had to find another new ENT and family doctor. I got a recommendation for a new specialist from my ENT in Edmonton, and got a letter in the mail that said the wait time for my first appointment was 12 months(!). Can you believe that?
I was still recovering from my major attack, and was in a really bad place physically and emotionally (I'm talking about on the verge of suicidal), so I got into contact with my Edmonton specialist again to see what could be done while I waited to find out if I was approved for AISH. Luckily, they were able to get the Calgary ENT to change my wait time to 6 months. Still insanely long, but less so.
I recovered from the attack a month or so after moving to Calgary, and for the next 2 months I felt quite good. I re-insured my car and started to work hard for Skip the Dishes. We slowly started to get out of the financial hole we were forced to dig. Then of course, since things were starting to improve, something had to put a stop to that.
I got a letter from AISH saying that I was denied. The reasons were absolute BS. Most of it came down to me not giving enough information in the application. The problem is, the form only gives a small space to answer most of the questions. I filled this form out digitally, and filled each space completely with small font. What no one told me though, is that they required pretty much an entire page worth of answers for each of these questions. I had to go much more in depth than the space allowed.
They also said that my condition wasn't permanent, which is provably false. They wanted more information from my ENT, something completely out of my control. One of the additional reasons for the denial was that they didn't think I had pursued remedial therapy options enough. Let me talk a bit about that.
When I first saw my ENT in Edmonton, he recommended that I should undergo Vestibular Rehabilitation. This is a type of physiotherapy that can help people who suffer from vestibular disorders to manage their balance in a more effective way. It won't prevent vertigo attacks, but can make the times between attacks easier to manage. I would love to do this therapy, but there's a few problems. First, it's prohibitively expensive. I called around to get a few quotes, and the cheapest I could find for the minimum amount of sessions I needed was $1500.
Second, the benefits I was getting through my girlfriends employment would only cover up to $600 of that. The problem with her benefits is that they can't be direct billed. You have to pay up front and then wait weeks to get reimbursed. We didn't have the money to pay upfront for even one session. I tried to get Alberta Supports to cover the costs for this therapy, but since we were ineligible for ongoing support we couldn't access their health benefit program and were turned down.
I covered all of this in my AISH application. I specified that the therapy was prohibitively expensive and that my benefits coverage was inadequate to cover it. I made it clear that I would immediately pursue this treatment if I was approved for AISH. Yet, they denied me partly because I did not try this treatment before applying. How does that make sense?
When you are denied for AISH, you have two options. You can appeal the decision within 30 days, and stand before a 'jury' of sorts to prove that you should be approved. Or, you can submit more information to AISH in the next 12 months so that they can possibly change their decision.
I decided to appeal. Since I was still waiting on my first appointment with the Calgary ENT, I had to contact my Edmonton one again. I was ready to drive up there to get him to give me another letter describing my condition and how it prevents me from earning a consistent income. I sent an email (their preferred form of contact) asking to schedule an appointment. A week later, I get a call from his assistant.
Turns out, my ENT is out of the country for an unspecified amount of time due to a family emergency or something. So obviously I missed the appeal window. Fantastic. I couldn't even go to my old family doctor in Edmonton, because he had dropped all his patients to pursue something else or whatever. Nice.
It was around this point where I had a bit of a revelation with my diet and my condition. I started reaching out online to find Meniere's communities, and stumbled upon the Meniere's subreddit. I was going through old posts, when I started seeing people talking about having success with low carb/keto, and I finally pieced it together. Most of the times where I was feeling sort of okay, was the times when I was in ketosis. The entire 6 month period between jobs in BC I was strictly following keto.
At least for me, it seems like low carb is definitely the way to go, not low sodium. This was never mentioned to me by any of my doctors or specialists. I can't even really find any information about it on the internet aside from anecdotes from Meniere's sufferers. But for me, it seems to work.
After the AISH debacle and this revelation, I've basically decided to just give up on getting support from the government. I still want at least backpay for the 6+ months during the application period where I was bedridden and couldn't work at all, but I don't even know if it's worth pursuing that. Since I'm back on low carb now and have my symptoms sort of under control, they probably wouldn't approve me anyways. I've started to put out my feelers, looking for more stable employment. Things are kind of looking up for me now.
I will commend the Canadian system in one way. A few months ago, after being fed up with the severe hearing loss that I have, I decided to try to get a hearing aid. Since I had no income, I was easily approved by the Alberta Aids to Daily Living program. This was a relatively easy process that took less than a month all in. I had to pay only $23 to have my new $1200 hearing aid shipped to a clinic near me. It helps me quite a lot. A good amount of my clarity is gone in my left ear but the hearing aid helps boost the volume, which is important. It also completely blocks my tinnitus with unnoticeable white noise I think (maybe black magic though, IDK).
That's a pretty long winded story, but I think it's necessary to paint the whole picture of my experience with Canadian healthcare and social welfare. Do you understand now why I would make an outlandish statement like I did in the title? Let me sum it up:
- Wait times for specialists and testing for people without terminal or urgent illnesses are absolutely insane. Every step of my process was met with extensive, seemingly unnecessary wait times.
- Cross-province communication is nearly non-existent. There's no reason why I should have had to wait months to do the same tests I already did.
- The restrictions for income support in Alberta are way too high. No one can live off less than $1000 a month for a family of two with rent as high as it is.
- The AISH application process is not documented well enough and the rulings are too heavy handed. Half of all people who apply are denied. For the ones that appeal, 42% are approved. An appeal success rate that is that close to 50% makes absolutely no sense. Refine the application process.
By the way, a couple weeks ago I finally met with my new ENT. This one is actually great. She really seems to know what she's talking about. She said that my Edmonton specialist should have never even suggested the shunt surgery, as it's outdated and has been proven ineffective. She doesn't allow her patients to receive it.
We're discussing low dose gentamicin injections, which have been proven to work quite well. The injections will destroy the part of my bad ear that controls balance, and defer it to my good ear. It will also probably destroy the rest of the hearing in that ear though. It's a bit of a drastic measure, but even though I have my symptoms under control I still desperately want to do it. For me, 'under control' means I can get through most days without retreating to my dark bedroom. It doesn't mean normal. I still deal with light and sound sensitivity and mild vertigo throughout the day. I still have to be careful with physical activities. Just not enough to prevent me from working.
I'm completely done with this disease and the stranglehold it has on my life. I don't want to have to do low carb for the rest of my life. I was researching this treatment for a while before seeing the new ENT, so I'm glad she was the one to bring it up. If I get it done my balance might be affected to the point of needing to walk with a cane, but I'm okay with that. I'll be using a hearing aid and potentially a cane before I'm even 30 years old, but who cares. I don't mind.
Next week I go for balance testing to see if my right ear is good enough to nuke the left one. I still have a ways to go to convince the specialist that I am fine with destroying my hearing in one ear, and who knows how long it will take to actually start the treatment if I succeed in convincing her, but whatever. At least I'm on the right track now.