The differences between Brad Lidge’s vertigo and my vertigo are many. I had an ear, nose and throat doctor and an audiologist; he has a starting rotation of specialists, trainers, massage therapists and, for all I know, “reliever whisperers” at his disposal. (Oddly, my vertigo is gone and his remains. Brad, I’ve got a number I can give you.) I wouldn’t stand on anything higher than deep pile carpet when I was ailing; he is climbing onto a mound, 101 / 2 inches higher than home plate.
That may fall somewhat short of Sir Edmund Hillary’s exploits, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it with vertigo, a malicious and pernicious inner ear ailment that left me in misery for five weeks. I had no warning signs; I sat up one morning, my world began rocking, and I fell back in bed. It reminded me of that old high school cheer:
Lean to the left,
Lean to the right
Stand up, sit down
Fight fight fight!
For “Stand up,” substitute “Throw up” and you’ve got the idea.
I did finally managed to stand up that first morning — and walked into the wall. Then I walked into the opposite wall. Worst pinball game ever. Going downstairs was fine, because by then I was sitting. Coming back up, I happened to look at my feet — and went down like a sack of potatoes. In the midst of my shower that morning I found myself longing for a Life Alert button. Then I made the mistake of bending over the sink to wash my face. Down goes Hamilton! Down goes Hamilton!
I began to think something was wrong.
Oddly, even on that first, worst day, driving was not a problem, though I was glad I had to go less than a mile. Walking was the issue. I staggered around D.C. trying to get to my doctor’s office, literally walking into doors, walls and finally a woman in the lobby. She thought I was drunk and reacted accordingly. Thankfully a nicer woman saw me, recognized the symptoms and got me into the elevator.
The entire five weeks weren’t as bad as that first day, but they weren’t fun, either. That’s why I’m so impressed with Lidge. How he can take the mound and throw a baseball is beyond me. Some have suggested that perhaps he shouldn’t, that maybe it’s not the safest thing for him to do. I think he’s a savvy veteran and if he becomes a danger to himself or others, he’ll sit himself down. Or Davey Johnson or Steve McCatty will do it for him.
He isn’t throwing the ball all over the joint; this isn’t a “hit the Bull mascot” situation. Now, if word of his vertigo happens to give opposing batters the heebie-jeebies, then that’s their problem, and the Nats’ good fortune. (“I don’t know where it’s gonna go. Swear to God.”)
In the meantime, the team needs to install a safety bar in the shower. Assign a clubhouse attendant to follow Lidge around, picking up his stuff; bending over is ill-advised. (Being short, I already had a handy reacher and what it wouldn’t grip stayed on the floor. It was a good five weeks for my cats.) Weirdly, the move that made me sickest was reaching above my head, which is tough because most of the world happens to be above my head. Lidge is 6 feet 5; that shouldn’t be a problem for him.
To be clear, vertigo is not contagious, and even if it was, I came down with it while the Nats were still in Florida and had recovered before the home opener. I’m no threat to the clubhouse. The Nats’ real worry should be Tommy John. That guy is the Typhoid Mary of baseball.
For Tracee Hamilton’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/