2018 Vestibular Hero Award Winners

The VeDA Heroes Program recognizes people who have gone “above and beyond” in the assistance of vestibular patients.

The vestibular community is full of caring, dedicated, and innovative individuals who consistently go “above and beyond” to support those suffering with a vestibular disorder. VeDA seeks to give people the opportunity to shine a spotlight on these individuals and their stories.

We received 40 nominations for the VeDA Hero Award, all of which were amazing and deserving. These five recipients were chosen for their selfless dedication to their loved ones and the vestibular community.

SamanthA Shepard

Nominated by Jill Shepard

“Samantha is my youngest daughter. She transferred from the college she was attended and loved to move back home and be my caregiver once I got sick. She takes all her classes online so they don’t interfere with my doctor appointments. She drives me everywhere, since I can’t drive anymore, and does everything for and with me. At 21 years old, she has become my right hand man and I don’t know what I would do without her!”

Abdul Mutaal

Nominated by Mussawir

“He helped us in establishing our country’s first complete vestibular & balance assessment & management lab which is now providing diagnosis & rehab services to our patients. He translated the Dizziness Handicap Inventory (DHI) into the Urdu language, which are we using now in our clinic.”

Javiera Lo-Loyola

Nominated by Sandra Loyola-Sandoval

“My daughter has been my hero from my first attack 10 years ago. She was only 10 years old. She cooks for me, brings me food, cold packs and anything she could think of to help me feel better. She turned 19 this year, she become a carer without complains. She would drive me with her Learners to the doctor or the hospital when things got really bad. She has taken care of me with so much compassion, always trying to understand what her mum goes thru. She would cancel her plans if she knows I’m not well. There are too many circumstances to mentioned and to give them justice they deserve. She would not want to be nominated as she does not see herself as a hero. She is constantly telling me what a strong and resilient woman I am. I love you my baby, thank you so much for being my angel, my life-saver and my inspiration, love Sandra (mum).”

Kathleen Tietjen

Nominated by Stacy Harpold

“My mother is my VeDA hero. When I was diagnosed with vestibular neuritis back in 2016, I was so sick my husband couldn’t take care of me. My mother and father dropped their lives in Florida to come to New York to take care of me. She is the one who found VeDA’s website and read it top to bottom and front to back. She found out the type of doctors she had to take me to and drove me all over NY to find the right ones. She brought me to my VRT sessions 2 to 3 times a week. I started getting better when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She began to fight her own battle, but still cared more for my well-being than her own. Luckily, she is a breast cancer survivor. When I got sick again in July 2017 she continued to be my full supporter and my advocate as well. She is my voice to family members and friends who question what disorders I have and spreads education to all that will listen. She is my hero and should be VeDA’s as well. With or without this honor, she is the most important person in my life, other than my husband. She herself is a true warrior and a fighter.”

Dr. Kathy Gill-Body

Nominated by Janit Greenwood

“Dr. Gill Body has been a full-time faculty member at the MGH Institute in Boston, where she developed the initial Doctor of Physical Therapy neurologic curriculum. During her 14 years at the school, she also was the clinical lead on numerous research grants with former IHP Professor Dr. David Krebs.

Dr.Gill Body is on the editorial board of Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy.

For the last five years, she has been my vestibular therapist, treating me with every newly developed and validated therapy.  Dr. Gill Body is the quintessential practitioner.  She continues to research new ideas and is always willing to discuss the best ideas for me personally. Above and beyond her professional capabilities, she is the kindest and most supportive person I have worked with.

I have seen over 15 MDs for my disorder and continue to search for the answers that are elusive, but I am always heartened and uplifted when I see Kathy, who makes sure I am on the right track and keeps me optimistic.

I can think of no better person to be a VeDA hero as she has been my hero!”

There were so many worthy Vestibular Hero nominations, and we want to acknowledge each and every one. Each week five more nominees will be highlighted.

Also nominated for the Vestibular Hero Award were:

Rebecca Cunningham

Nominated by Cynthia Trullinger

“Dr. Cunningham works tirelessly for her patients and eclipses all prior healthcare professionals I have met in my lifetime.  She exemplifies the trust and professionalism that many do not offer where she has a compassionate curious mind that gets to the root of your issue. Dr. Cunningham taught me to not fear my vestibular disturbance but to instead, break down the symptoms into more manageable sets and work them out piece by piece. I applaud her relentless determination to oversee my insurance confusion and put it to rest swiftly. In short, Dr. Cunningham takes the guess work out of very confusing body dysfunction and helped me regain as much of my life as possible. I finally moved to a beautiful place with fresh air and a positive support network, all because I trusted her to teach me about my Vestibular disturbance. She has championed me at every challenge and never let me down. Thank you Dr. Cunningham, I hope anyone with an OT need starts with you first! Fight on!”

James McLaughlin

Nomiated by Nicole Michadick

“I am nominating this person because he has gone beyond anything in trying to help me with my vestibular issues.  He’s taken me to my vestibular rehabilitation therapy appointments, he’s taken me to the store, he’s taken me to other doctors’ appointments because I can’t drive and he has driven my daughter and I places where we need to go. He’s got me out of the house and helped me to get through some of my bad times. One time in particular, we were in Walmart and as anyone with vestibular issues know, Walmart can be horrid for us.  I started feeling very disoriented and disconnected. I ran out as fast as I could. He came out shortly after me and helped me up from where I was sitting on the curb and he helped me by understanding and offering to be there when I need help. This man is 80 years old and I wish I could do more as a thank you for him.”

Robert Dumont

Nominated by Rebecca Dumont

“My husband, Rob, is my hero because he has always been there for me since day one. When I received the gentamicin injection on November 2 last year, I lost all my balance and was hospitalized for 1 week. My husband took 6 months off from work to take care of me. He bathed me, fed me, dressed me, and took care of me as I learned to take care of myself again. The patience and understanding he has shown for this crazy disease goes above and beyond anyone I know! He has been a savoir as I put my life back together, and gave me the strength to return to work.”

Brent Anderson

Nominated by Erin Peters

“When I was diagnosed with labyrinthitis, my husband was also diagnosed with diabetes. During the acute early stages of my illness I couldn’t even leave the house. My husband was learning how to manage his illness, and had to take care of me and our daughter. He was and is my hero. Even now that I’m back in the world he understands when I’m dizzy and takes extra care! I am lucky.”

Robert Banker

Nominated by Susan Banker

“My husband is my hero! He holds me up when I’m too dizzy to stand, he takes me places when I don’t feel up to driving, he’s been there to take me to umpteen PT appointments when I was too dizzy and is by my side whenever I need him. He walks with me, and makes sure I’m coming, even when I’m lagging behind, and makes sure I don’t fall. He says that that’s what marriage is all about!! I love him very much for all of this, but even more for the man he has become and who he is today! Don’t know what I’d do without him!!! I love him more than the day we married.”

Beverly Borge

Nominated by Julie Lindblad

My mom is my VeDa Hero! She takes me to all my appointments no matter how far away or how long they take, she helps me take care of my kids and drives us anywhere we need to go and she’s my cheerleader, always encouraging, positive and hopeful.

Rebecca Ledsham

Nomiated by Emma Ledsham

I am nominating this person to be a VeDA hero because of her amazing willingness to support me through my chronic illness. The minute I was diagnosed she researched what she could do to help and still discusses suggestions every time we talk. She is my twin sister and has been with me through everything. I have been dealing with having a chronic illness at 19, going to school, work, and leading a club, and she has been with me every step of the way making sure I have the support I need. Last year there was a time I was feeling extremely low and trapped by my illness, so I called her very late one night, not expecting her to answer. Not only did she answer, she stayed on the phone with me until we had a plan for feeling better mentally. She then confessed to me that she always kept her phone ringer up all the way at night just in case I might call needing her. I don’t know how I would be able to deal with my chronic illness without her.

Linda Peterson

Nominated by Joni Slechta

I nominate my sister, we was diagnosed with Chronic subjective dizziness 5 years ago, as I was diagnosed with vestibular neuritis and vestibular migraines 3 years ago,  she is my cheerleader,  always positive,  giving me encouragement to try things that helps her to cope… and she was diagnosed with breast cancer last October but doing great now, thankfully her attitude gets her and her little sister through the days that are harder than others. So proud to be her sis, thanks for giving me countless rides to where we need to go,  shopping for me during tough days,  hanging on to me when its windy, exercising to keep positive! Love you more than I can ever express always & forever.

Wendell Holt

Nominated by Kim Holt

I nominate my husband Lance Holt as the VeDA hero.  I suffered my first drop attack from Meniere’s disease in October 2017.  This drop attack led to as fall which caused me to suffer a concussion. My brain MRI also revealed an acoustic neuroma.  The concussion affected my vision and vestibular system dramatically. My husband used leave from work to take me to all of my medical appointments, physical therapy and visual rehabilitation therapy. Additionally, he took over grocery shopping, meal preparation and house work while continuing to work full time.  On weekends often split his time between taking me out for drives (as tolerated) and helping to cover my responsibility of elder care for my 89 year old father.  He helped me at home with my balance exercises and purchased me the exact balance pad used in physical therapy for continuity. He never complained when I would want to get second opinions – he would just grab the keys and say “let’s go.” He changes the lighting in the house, adjust glare on televisions for my tolerance and comfort. When we are out and I become symptomatic, he immediately reacts to get me to a comfortable and safe space. I have improved tremendously because of his support, understanding and love. He will always be my VeDA hero!

Rosa Foo

Nominated by Etrily Laitphlang

I nominate Rosa Foo to be my vestibular hero because she has seen me through my vestibular journey from the moment I had my accident in 2004. She took me in and looked after me when none of my family members were in the UK. She would travel into London with me to attend all my appointments both medical and legal. Travelled to India every year to the Ayurvedic hospital and stay with me for the whole month. Words of hope and encouragement came from her at every stage and together we fought through every battle. She believed for the two of us that I will get out of bed again which gave me the strength and courage never to give up hope. She extended her care and love to my children. She has become a true sister. We still carry on, but now we mostly laugh about the things I can’t do any longer instead of being upset. She is truly my vestibular hero.

Chris Kosmicki

Nominated by Kelley Paine

He has been there from the first diagnosis and always makes sure to help me navigate any and all situations without judgement and with great concern, gentleness and kindness. He never gives up on me even when I am ready to – I am grateful and lucky to have him in my life.

Joyce Price

Nominated by Elizabeth Lessner

My mom has been the steady rock I can lean on since becoming sick two and half years ago. Before I stopped driving she would drop what ever she was doing to come pick me up when I had an bad spell and now that I don’t drive she carts me wherever I need to go. She nurses me when I can’t do for myself, she helps me take care of my daughter and so much more. I don’t know what I would do without her.

Dana, Ty & Cody Stensrud

Nominated by Debbie Sensrud

I’m nominating my husband AND my sons! They have always been very supportive any time I’m down, including dropping everything last month to come and get me and my car from work when I had a vertigo attack. They are my heroes!!!

Robin Harrington

Nominated by Katie Elder

Robin has gone above and beyond to help me with my vestibular disorder and balance issues. She has been so patient with me every step of the way even when things weren’t progressing as we would have liked due to other medical issues. She was always creative with her approach to therapy, made it fun and taught me so many different techniques for therapy and vestibular rehab. She’s been so good to me and helped me improve in so many ways with balance, dizziness, migraine, weakness, and spinal issues just to name a few and I’m so grateful for her kindness, compassion and dedication to making people better! Thanks Robin!

Jennifer Toland

Nominated by Vicki Hotte

Jennifer Toland provided progressive central vestibular physiotherapy to me over an extended period, following significant traumatic brain injuries and multiple skull fractures that occurred after I, as a pedestrian, was hit by a truck in February 2004.