Flight from hell

For most of the last seven years with this crap I have been able to handle flying on jets reasonably well with the usual fallout afterwards depending on how much jet lag was involved. So what happened yesterday was quite new and has put me off wanting to fly to Canada again given the week-long battle with jet lag and yesterday’s flight.

All day before getting on the flight from Toronto to LA I felt pretty good although I was feeling a little worse for wear after a fairly long last full day in downtown Toronto running around looking for stuff – i.e. a lot of exercise all day long. So the minute I walk on the jet at 5 PM and sit down, BAM, it hits. Vertigo. I don’t usually stress about this sort of attack because they are self-limiting, is probably an aura, and a headache usually starts soon after the vertigo ends. A similar thing happened on a plane years ago on take off but only lasted 30 minutes, delivered a killer headache, and that was it. This time, however, the vertigo and feelings of associated panic went for the ENTIRE 5 hours to LA. Worse, I suddenly realised I only had 2.5 mg of valium with me (which I took immediately); the rest was in my suitcase. The suitcase was marked to go all the way through to Sydney! Definitely not smart but I really never need valium for the sake of flying so didn’t think much of it until now considering I was OK. There was no way I was getting on the LA to Sydney flight without drugs. I just sat in my seat watching the clock, counting down the 5 hours. Reading a book was out of the question as was looking out the window.

I got to LA out of my mind. Fingers in the socket feeling all through me and battling total panic because there was still another 14.5 hour flight to Sydney and the entire airport was moving in my vision. I was seriously contemplating changing flights and staying overnight in LA but knew it would cost me a lot and I’d just feel wound up anyway about the whole change of plan and arriving in Sydney late (supposed to be at work tomorrow morning). Luckily I intercepted my luggage at Air Canada after hassling 5 different people and running around LAX like a headless chicken … I was led into some freaky restricted area to get at it and finally found and pulled out the valium stash – immediate salvation. It was like I had just found 100,000 dollars. Another 3 hours of vertigo at LA with no end in sight and I had to get on the flight off my head dizzy. A stewardess was sitting across from me as we were taxiing and asked if I was OK as I sat meditating trying to battle it all with mind over matter (not working). I was white as a sheet apparently and I said “I’m just dizzy”. Suddenly the head stewardess comes over and asks me about 5 times if I’m really CERTAIN I can do the flight, that there’s really nowhere to stop if I “deteriorate” in the middle of the Pacific! So there I was meditating trying to stop the vertigo and adrenalin shots wondering how I would last another 14 hours and calm the hell down and this woman is telling me I’m trapped in a tin can with engines for an eternity … that there had been “situations” before where the jet had to make a stop in Hawaii when someone felt dizzy previously and now was the time to get off the plane if I felt ill. The adrenalin was pumping worse than ever now. I said NO, I’ll be OK … keep this mother rolling. Luckily I had an Aussie guy sitting beside me who took the piss out of me, managed to make me laugh and caused a well-needed distraction.

More valium went down – all up 10 mg – a meal came, and I passed out for 6 hours straight. The vertigo stopped. I’ve never been so glad to see the end of an attack before in 7 years. A massive headache soon followed but who cares. Anything was better than vertigo at 38,000 feet wondering when it would end.

Moral of this story: NEVER EVER get on a plane without enough valium or whatever benzo you use for this even if you feel well before the flight. The whole experience has left me feeling a little freaked out about flying, the sort you would feel after being through a really bad and extended horror. The upshot is that I know that even when it appears that I am completely doomed in such a scenario, it doesn’t play out that way. The attacks do burn out with a little help from my drug friend.

Scott :shock:

Oh dear Scott, you poor thing.

I am interested that the valium helped though as I went through the same sort of thing in Spain if you remember 2 years ago.
We were in Coveta La Fuma (very very quiet) and two days left to go of the holiday and decided to take a trip to Aqual land in Benidorm (supposed to be 20 minutes) turned out two and half hrs to get there. Spent a day with a migraine knocking back painkillers there and made our way back after a long day, on the tram and having to make several stops and wait in the boiling sun for another tram. Just as we were getting back, the floor seemed to be moving a bit and things getting a bit disorientated.
Then, as we arrived back, a severe vertigo attack. I went to bed watching the red curtains spinning round, took stemetil and expected it to pass in the night after 6 or so hours as usual. It didnt, it went on all the next day and the following day we had to fly home.

Panic was setting in as I couldnt see how I was going to get up out of bed let alone fly and I had never had an an attack last that long since the ECOG test. In the end I just resigned myself to fact that I wouldnt be flying home the next day. I was awake all night with the spinning. In the morning, still feeling very sick but severe spinning stopped I packed my suitcase, couldnt look down, couldnt hardly move my head. When I got on the plane I just sat there, head pressed against the headrest and luckily it was just a two hour flight, nothing like your long ordeal. I have never been so glad to get home from anywhere in my life.
Said I would never do it again, but I have and luckily, the vertigo hasnt happened a second time.

The worse thing about this is just not having anything to take to get rid of it so when it strikes, wherever you are you are disabled and nobody around seems to understand much about whats going on with you. Looking at your experience and mine, it was the long day just before travelling that triggered the bad attack and the accumulation of doing a lot more during the holiday than normal.

Glad thats over for you now.


Scott you must be sooooooo glad to be home! Look after yourself now, cause it seems you’ve had a hell of a few weeks.

Hi Scott,

Wow, that was a flight from hell! I could feel your misery as I read your post. I’m glad you’re home now. Make sure you allow yourself as much time as possible to rest over the next week or so. You’ll just prolong the misery if you try to run around playing catch-up after your vacation. I speak from experience.

I agree if we must travel, it is imperitive to have the right meds on hand. For me, meclizine (for vertigo and to knock me out) and levsin (for nausea) are key to survival.

Maybe you can convince your family to visit you next time. :wink:

Take care,


Christine – your experience sounded like the trip from hell as well. You’re right, I’m quite sure that in both our cases it was all the running around the day before that set us up for the fall. So as a further precaution in the future we should make certain to rest the day BEFORE flying given how excessive exercise sets us off.

Lorcalon – yup, I’m very glad it’s over. Not surprisingly I feel pretty good today at work. The way this junk can swing so wildly is just unreal.

Marci – I’m going to try the Dramamine nex time I’m having a bad day and see if it does any good. Maybe it’s another secret weapon I’ve overlooked.


the exercise thing in interesting, as I definately feel better after exercise - and I don’t mean gentle stroll stuff but puhing myself a the gym - just endorphins I wonder? Certainly on the days when I don’t exercise I feel worse…to the point that by about 3 I’ll be dragging myself to the gym if I can. But then again I don’t think my experience of MAV is as severe as those with exercise issues- and I hope it stays that way :slight_smile:


Hey Scott,

So sorry to hear about your hellish experience! I can certainly relate…in 1999 we flew to Hawaii from Los Angeles and at the time i was not doing very well…my condition was much worse than now… but i wanted to visit our friends in Hawaii. So while on the plane flight i began to feel more dizzy in general…and by the time i got off the plane my equilibrium was shot! Our friends drove us to their house…we had a small bite to eat…i proceeded to go the bedroom and take a nap. Once my head hit the pillow the room began to spin violently and i became extremely sick to my stomach and threw up. The next 3 days i was very ill and my equilibrium was totally off. I didn’t want to do anything. So my vacation was a disaster! On the way home i recall i had to keep very still while riding on the plane…i barely talked to anyone. I would not fly again till about 5 years later…that is the lasting affect it had on me! I noticed you said that you get this massive headache after the vertigo…that does not happen with me. I just become very sick to my stomach and puke my guts up! Nowadays i don’t have the severe vertigo anymore…just a mild half spin twice a year if that.

Wishing you a speedy recovery!


ps. the benzo’s can be very helpful in situations like that.

Scott - argghhh! What hell! Must have been really hideous and obvious for the hosties to actually take it so seriously. Shame they didn’t have the deceny to upgrade you so you could lie down. Qantas? Glad you got through it at the other end eventually.

I feel your pain - I had the same thing in Cyprus two years ago. So bad I had to delay flight for a few days and cowered in bed wondering if I was dying. It was pre-diagnosis so I didn’t know what the hell was going on. On the 25+ hour journey home I had a 12 hour lay over in Dubai which made everything worse - standing in 40 degree heat under blazing lights for about 2 hours going through immigration blah blah blah.

So yeah, agree - a rest day before flight and loads of Valium on hand is a must. What doesn’t kill us we learn from etc etc…


I have not flown since 1995 because of my vertigo. I felt so dizzy and nauseous on the plane that I didn’t want to get back on to come home! Unfortunately I had to. Now it has become a phobia. I hated the whole experience-and the height doesn’t help either. People keep telling me to try it again-I know they mean well and don’t want me to miss out but there’s no fun when you feel that awful. If I ever get the nerve to fly again I will be asking the Dr. for much more than just Dramamine! I give you all a LOT of credit for doing it. Wish I was braver!