Friday, June 9, 2017

Vertigo, and Other Inconsequential Ramblings of a Condemned Man

I live my life in ‘The Bag’.
The AH-64 Apache attack helicopter has a night vision system built into the aircraft. Attached to the nose of the helicopter, the Pilot Night Vision System/Target Acquisition and Designation System (PNVS/TADS) is approximately 14 feet in front of and 3 feet below the pilot’s station. The system detects heat variances to create an image, which is digitally projected onto a monocle in front of the pilot’s right eye. The TV screen field-of-view has a limited range of up 20 degrees and down 45 degrees, while looking 90 degrees left or right, and can move at approximately 120-degrees per second. This is the PNVS, the TADS is comparable, though much slower (60-degrees per second). The system is ‘slaved’ to the pilot’s head electronically (look left, and the PNVS looks left…).*
The point is, everything you see is 14 feet in front of and 3 feet below the front of the helicopter versus the location of your eyeball, in a hazy shade of green phosphorous, moving significantly slower than your head will (taking time to catch up if you turn too quickly), and only shown through one eyeball. Life can be nauseating.
So, they put you in ‘The Bag’ during your initial training in the Apache. To avoid competition with your other eye, your cockpit is sealed tight so the only visual cues you have come from the ‘Green-Eyed Monster’.
Your visual system is all discombobulated and telling you one thing.
Your vestibular system (your inner ear) is telling you something else.
Your proprioceptive system (seat of your pants) is telling you a third.
Which do you believe?
Nauseating, until you learn how to interpret your new world and read new inputs.
This is life with multiple sclerosis; what your eyes tell you, what your sense of balance tells you, and what you are seat-of-the-pants feeling tells you often come in direct conflict with reality. Nauseating may be the greatest understatement of my life; my new world is always changing.
In a helicopter, you are taught to rely on your instruments; don’t execute a maneuver simply because your body is telling you to do something; rely on your instruments as your fourth sensory input.
What can I rely on with my person? When I stand up, what my eyes tell me (when my vision is clear and stationary) often conflict with what my inner ear/balance tells me (when the signals work), as well as what my physical sensations tell me (when I can feel them). I have no instruments (at least not until Google develops a contact lens with a built-in attitude indicator, altimeter, and ground speed sensor). Nauseating, until I learn how to interpret my new world and read ever-changing inputs.
Army Aviation taught me how I can have multiple sclerosis and yet still function. I can’t rely solely on one sensory input, I must use them all. On some occasions, one of my sensors fail; I need to recognize that situation promptly, switch focus away from the failure and onto remaining sources, then LAND AS SOON AS PRACTICABLE; the primary concern is the urgency of the emergency.
When input fails on multiple sensors, LAND AS SOON AS POSSIBLE; the primary concern is survival of the occupant.
So, if I sit down or suddenly do not want to know anything, my primary concern may be survival of my occupancy.

*This information is unclassified and, since I retired 17 years ago, most likely outdated.


Dizziness and Vertigo
People with MS may feel off balance or lightheaded, or — much less often — have the sensation that they or their surroundings are spinning (vertigo).

The fight is not over and it won’t be over until a cure is found.
It will never stop…nor will we
It will never quit…nor will we
This is why we fight!

Never Stop… Never Quit…®
Kevin Byrne
Portland, OR

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