The Music Man

The Music Man

Life Rebalanced Chronicles Season 3, Episode 7

When Paul got dizzy he lost his job and worried he might lose everything. Would he be able to continue playing music if he is too dizzy to sit on the organ balcony? With the help of his dog and encouragement from the vestibular community, Paul turned his struggles as a dizzy musician into a new way to share his passion.



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Paul Burnside 

When I was in junior high, I started taking piano lessons from a university professor. And then with the organ, I started studying in high school with a professor at the same university. And then I originally enrolled at that university as a, as an organ major. I decided that wasn’t something that I was going to pursue as a vocation. As an organism, it is difficult to make a living as a as a as an organist. And it’s one of the things you do on the side and you and you do for the love of it. And actually, I feel lucky. Now, I feel fortunate. This disability has allowed me to be a full time organist. Whereas I wouldn’t not have had that opportunity. If I was still working a full time job. I woke up one morning, late November to get up for work as normal. And the room and the room was spinning, spent all the morning the whole morning on the bathroom floor, and eventually managed to crawl back to bed. And called into work saying I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I think I got the flu or something like that. But I definitely I’ve got vertigo, and this is really bad. Then the next day, it was gone. The vertigo was gone. But there was something off. The world just didn’t look right anymore. And so my next concern was boy, I have to play in church on Sunday morning. I’m not sure if I can, I don’t know if I can do that a few days later, I was able to go in to see my EMT. He ran some tests and had an MRI and things like that. And when he when we did the VMG. And his response from the VMG was that the results were all over the place like he suspected. So he sent me to a specialist that ran the same tests. And he was able to determine that I have distributor rights. And my wife told me later that up until that moment, she thought it was something that maybe I was overreacting. She didn’t say that there wasn’t anything wrong with me, but maybe I was overreacting. how I felt. It’s like they always say you look you look okay, on the outside. But you don’t feel okay on the inside. And nothing that they can see shows that you don’t feel okay. I don’t remember my emotional status. I think I was more concerned with my job. What was going to happen? Will I be able to get back to work? Will it go away? And the specialist actually put in his notes. And I think this really helped me when I applied for disability. He wrote that I should be prepared for long term disability. My employer was just great. But the hardest things were one night going into work every day and seeing the people that my friends, my colleagues, and just knowing what to do every day, six months later, when I got the call for human resources, thing that I’d been terminated because a lot of short term disability had run out, even though I could they would rehire me any time. That was that was just a really difficult day. i i Just sobbed, sobbed and sobbed. You know, I was proud of the work I did. I did good work. And I was a good employee. And I just felt bad. I felt bad that I put them in this in this situation even though I didn’t do anything myself, but I felt bad that they had to be in this situation. Ella was a German Shepherd. She was just a beautiful soul. And she became like, kind of my constant companion. She, she was my angel. I mean, she kept me she kept me i Active, she kept me. You know, she kept me going. She kind of gave me purpose. Because you know, our purpose was, okay. Where do you want to go today? Which direction do you want to go? And she’d look around a little bit and then decide which way she want to go. And that’s where we’d go. She and I started walking. And when you have a vestibular disorder, walking is not the easiest thing to do in the world, you can walk, you just can’t walk straight, you know, I would go to physical therapy then. And I would always be way ahead of the curve. Because I would take all these tests, and it will say, Well, you’re doing really well. And I said, Well, that’s because we walk four or five, six miles every day. But I found that walking with a dog at the end of the leash, it gives visually, it gives you something to concentrate on. And then the weight of the dog gives you kind of a counterbalance. It’s, it’s physical therapy, is what it is. But she taught me to keep going, no matter what she taught me, she taught me to have joy to see the lows. She was so full of joy. I only took the one Sunday off from church, at that church where I played at that time, I was at an Oregon loft. Looking down on the sanctuary. And I’m thinking this isn’t good. You know? Am I going to be able to do this? Am I going to be able to sit up here? Am I going to be able to play if I didn’t, if I wasn’t able to play anymore, I don’t know what I would do. I still have I still have a good life. But I would be so empty. Without that. I don’t think that I would be able to play again, at least to me any level that I would be happy with. And I probably put in some ways I played better than I ever had my whole life. And it’s because I’ve had the opportunity to be that. And I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do that. If it wasn’t for this one door closes. Another one opens you hate to. But it’s true. It’s absolutely true. I’m kind of, I’m kind of a private person. And I don’t I don’t like to draw attention to myself. And then one day, we were talking about something at a patient education meeting. And Glen Schweitzer said my story, as a vestibular musician would be really interested. And I thought well, okay, you know, maybe I have this do have a story to tell. So I started the blog, the Dizzy fingers blog, initially to reach out to other musicians, not just people that musicians with vestibular disorders, but with really any kind of disability that inhibits their abilities or had where they felt they’ve had to change their approach to playing, you may have to change the way you approach your instruments. You may have to limit what or where you can play or how you play. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. You just have to keep trying. And just don’t give up there. I mean, especially for for new patients that are struggling, but it’s okay. It’s really okay. You know, you’ll make it if I can do it, not just being a musician, but if I can live a good life, productive life then the next person can to