Medical Mystery: Disembarkment Syndrome

Relief … From a Pair of Socks?

ABC's John Quinones met Kimberly Johnson and Deb Russo at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, where the women could try experimental devices in hope of finding relief. Drs. Conrad Wall and Lars Oddsson are developing a biofeedback vest and socks to help the elderly and others prone to falling.

The devices vibrate to signal users to correct their balance when they tilt off-course. They are still one-of-a-kind experiments, but they do seem to help both Johnson and Russo feel increasingly stable when using the vest and socks.

Johnson was elated by her progress with the biofeedback vest. "That's pretty amazing. I definitely felt it. It was a big improvement."

A Person in Motion Must Stay in Motion

There is another mysterious element to this story, an ironic fact about this syndrome of constant movement. Motion -- like driving -- actually gives relief to those that have the syndrome.

"When I drive, you can't feel it. Any motion, it subsides," said Johnson.

According to Russo, "My younger son and I had a great conversation in the car, because in the car I'm a normal person. I don't have symptoms in the car. And he just said, "That was so nice to have a conversation with you like that."

Lewis explains why: "In a way that makes sense because they're re-entering the situation that they're adapted to."

It seems that until the experimental devices Johnson and Russo tried become available to others living with MdDS, relief can be found by doing the very same thing that brought on the syndrome to begin with -- staying in motion.

For more information about this story:

MdDS Balance Disorder Foundation

Vestibular Disorders Association

Mal de Debarquement Syndrome

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