By Lawrence Cohen
The year was 1977.
The month was August.
I awakened suddenly from a dream in which I dreamt I was upside down, similar to the ship in the movie, “The Poseidon Adventure”....I fell back to sleep but from that moment on, and for the rest of my life, my balance has never been the same, not normal.....things that should be level, e.g., tables, desks, tennis courts, even my own bed, seem to tilt ever so slightly, not a lot, but enough to give me a great problem concentrating....it is as if I had lost 20 points of my I.Q., since my brain has to think about something that most of us never have to think about...balance.
In September, a few weeks later, of that same year, a high pitched, but not loud sound began in my left ear...and within weeks the same sound began in my right ear. And, to this very moment, that constant, never-ending sound has been my constant companion.....
The worst part of my condition was that the best doctors in the United States could offer me no relief, aside from a diet of anti-anxiety drugs. Some doctors, unconscionable doctors, in my view offered solutions such as cutting the nerves from my ears and other, often absurd solutions.
It was in 1979, two years after my syndrome began that I decided to seek out the solution of this problem for myself. I would become a medical doctor....and a research doctor.
This quest, double the number of years that Sydney Greenstreet searched for the Maltese Falcon, led me on a path from San Pedro de Macorix in the Dominican Republic to the Capital City of Santo Domingo to Chicago and finally, to a small research laboratory in Upstate New York, coincidentally in my city of birth.
All of this time, I had to connive and trick many into believing that my health was fine since sick doctors don’t make good doctors. When I was fighting the despair of “tinnitus,” the medical term for ringing in the ears, as well as disequilibrium, I would bury myself in the current medical literature of the research that was being conducted by the U.S. Government, under the aegis of the National Institutes of Health as well as the research from all of the laboratories world-wide.
The results have been dismal and very disappointing....and I am sure there will be no cure in my lifetime since now I am 63 years of age, especially if the number of dollars invested in this research is not increased drastically. Now, it seems that most of the reputable research scientists in this area now think that the problem of tinnitus lies in a small part of the brain that is either injured or traumatized to the point where it lets unwanted signals pass through a "filter" and to the hearing portion of the brain.
Yet, from every bad there comes a good...and the good led me to a wonderful country called the Dominican Republic.....a country of proud yet sympathetic, and, many many brilliant people....truly brilliant. Undoubtedly, some of my professors were some of the best.....for example, Dr. Hazbun, was a true genius in biochemistry and pharmacology. Of course, I had some terrible professors too, but who has not had bad professors?
The research that I eventually did was in cardiac electrophysiology, but this gave me the tools to read and understand the medical literature that came out of the tinnitus research labs from around the world.
I believe that most people would have given up once they had symptoms such as mine, but I always believed, perhaps incorrectly, that I could solve the hardest problems....so the expression, “Doctor, heal thyself” would have applied to me if I were successful, but successful I was not.....
However, the gift that the Dominican people, its universities, gave me was the gift a going to medical school at such a late age, age 29, I even had to learn Spanish “on the run” taking an intensive 6 days a week, 10 week course in San Pedro just to get a working knowledge of my new language.
The only gift I can give back to the Dominican People is all of the video that I took over the past 20 years in your country. About 80% of the video is now posted on Youtube.com on my “Mcdeadsquirrel” channel.....for your enjoyment.
I can only ask one favor of your country....that when or if there is ever a cure for tinnitus, that your medical schools be the leaders in the fight to help the rest of the world.