Multiple Sclerosis: The Diagnosis

On November 19th 2020, I woke up feeling weird. There was no reason for the feeling. The sun shined just as it had the previous day. Other than a solo Thanksgiving during the pandemic, there was no new development in my life. Still, my body just felt – different.

I went to my computer intending to get some serious work done. I’d slacked off the previous day and only written 500 words in my new project and felt like a slob for doing so. I sat down at my computer and started typing. I immediately knew something was wrong. My left hand was all over the place. Every time I tried to type, I missed the intended letter. After four attempts to type the word “distinct,” I gave up and went to my bedroom to lie down. I guessed that maybe I was stressed (although I hadn’t had any arguments or fights).

After laying down for a few hours chewing on what was wrong with my hand, I began to worry. I went back to my computer and attempted to type again. The same thing happened. Frustrated, I grabbed a pen and tried to write. I don’t why, but I fancied the problem was some scrambling of the process in my brain. I know, it seems dumb, but I’ve been trapped inside my home since March, rarely leaving for anything other than a doctor’s appointment. Maybe my brain’s confusion was some “lockdown syndrome” that people weren’t mentioning. As soon as I started writing, I became terrified. I couldn’t write my name! I tried continuously for 5 minutes, and I couldn’t form the letters. I stood up to go to my bedroom, and I almost fell. It felt like I’d drank a six-pack of beer, and I couldn’t steady myself. Finally, after a few seconds passed, I was able to go to bed. I became frustrated and went to sleep. I didn’t know what was happening.

The next day I woke up, and the dizziness was gone. I went into the bathroom to shower, and when I attempted to climb into the tub, I banged my foot on the edge. I didn’t think much about it. Maybe I was still sleepy. I showered, brushed my teeth, and went to my bedroom to get dressed. When I tried to put on my boxers, my leg wouldn’t move. I started freaking out. Somehow, I was able to slide my foot along the floor until I got into my boxers. I grabbed my shirt and tried to put it on. What do you know? My arm wouldn’t move. For the next 30 minutes, I struggled to dress. Finally, after somehow tying my shoes with one hand, I limped down to my car and went to the hospital.

When I walked into the emergency room, I was more afraid of getting coronavirus than anything else. Over 30 people were sitting in the emergency room with various illnesses, and they were all sitting together. There was no social distancing. I limped up to the receptionist’s desk and stood for a few moments marveling at their attempt at shielding themselves from the virus. There was a giant wall of glass protecting the receptionist from the virus. I told the nurse the reason for my visit and passed her my insurance card. She informed me that she didn’t need it. It took me a minute to remember that I’d had foot surgery earlier, and all of my information was in their computer system.

Within one minute, the doctors came out and led me to a mobile bed. Once there, they asked me various questions about my symptoms and began checking me out. They initially thought I was having a stroke and took all the necessary steps to ensure I received rapid treatment. I wasn’t surprised. The quicker the reaction time on a stroke victim, the greater the chance for recovery.

After running a few tests and determining that I wasn’t having a stroke, the doctors placed me in a holding area. It was a weird experience. A few nurses came in to check my vitals and then skirted out of the room. Meanwhile, I shared the room with a man that was experiencing some mental issues. As a nurse attempted to take his vitals, he slapped her. She informed him not to do that, and he did it again. The nurse called security, and the man tried to hit him. Finally, the nurses calmed the man with a sedative. Thirty minutes later, he woke up and started yelling again. This time he complained that he had to go to the bathroom. When the nurse gave him a portable urine bottle and informed him that he couldn’t walk out to the bathroom, the man stood up, pulled it out, and flooded the middle of the floor with urine. I was quickly wheeled out of the waiting area and into my room.

Over five days, I saw no less than five neurologists. They all came in to check my vitals, do strength tests, and give me pieces of information as they came in. The doctors detected a demyelinating process.  The doctors saw several lesions in my brain on the MRI.  They had to do more tests to rule out an infection. I endured a spinal tap and more machine scans. Eventually, I was given steroids for the next four days, and I regained movement in both my leg and my arm.

Conclusion? I’ve been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. While there are medicines to slow the advancement of the disease, there is no cure. Great. Yet another reason for me to hate the year 2020.

The upside to it all? It’s a new chapter in my life. From a writer’s perspective, sometimes I find the whole MS experience a welcoming event.  If I can retain my ability to write, I can see life and document it differently. After researching the disease, I’ve understood that although it can be difficult, it’s not the end. Life goes on. And as long as I show respect for the health requirements, my life really won’t be that much different than it was.

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