Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Law & Order: MS Victims Unit

This isn’t the original entry I was planning on sharing this week but it wrote itself after life was interrupted on Sunday.  Below is an annotated summary of my Sunday interlude. 

In the multiple sclerosis system, a chronic disease affects two separate yet equally important groups; the brain and the spinal cord.  Because of this, often it’s hard to tell the difference between MS and non-MS related events.  This is one of those stories.  Dun dun.

When is being tired not just being tired?  Often, in the world of MS, it’s hard to exactly know where the tired ends and the MS begins.  Am I exhausted from MS Fatigue or did I just not get enough rest the night before? Did I not sleep well because of some environmental factor (room too warm, kiddos waking up during the night) or because one of my regular MS ailments (pain, spasticity) kept me up? 

Which brings us to Sunday morning.  I woke up around 6 and knew instantly something was wrong.  The entire room was spinning (and no, I didn’t have any J├Ąger shots the night before!)…vertigo, or some form of it is pretty common in my world.  But this was different. 

I began to sit up and instantly felt like I was going to pass out.  Literally.  Everything was going dark.  I fell back to the bed in shock and tried again to move and was hit with the same terrifying feeling of blacking out.

Angela heard me struggling and asked if something was wrong.  With everything spinning, a cold sweat beginning and feeling like the world was coming to an end, I couldn’t form a coherent response.  But, I knew I had to get up to use the restroom.

And before you stop reading, I won’t be going into any details because honestly, there are none.  I just had to go but I couldn’t *get* there.  Angela basically had to carry me…and all that motion caused me to feel even more seasick.

Was this a bad case of food poisoning?  Or was this MS paying me yet another visit? (Chung chung)  My stomach felt like it was at civil war, my head felt like it was rolling around on a boat and I couldn’t stop feeling like I was going to hit the ground and pass out.

After returning to our bed, I asked Angela to bring me a trashcan nearby.  Over the next two hours, I unceremoniously dry-heaved at a rather constant pace.  Blood vessels on my nose popped from the intensity and frequency of dry-heaving.  I couldn’t even hold up my head up...I’d rest my head against Angela and then she’d help prop it up above the trashcan, when needed.

And so the day went.  Yes, day.  I spent an entire day in bed even though it was impossible for me to find any comfortable position.  I had no strength and couldn’t even sit up.

By noon, I requested my Kindle to try and research online whether this was food poisoning or something worse.  Bad idea.  By this point, I had gone delirious and ended up diagnosing myself with some “exotic” condition.  I believe it’s called “fainting”.  Did you know there is a long, scientific term for fainting?  Well, I found it.  I was out of my mind, thinking this was some new affliction that was hitting poor saps like me.  I’m not sure if Angela shut off my internet access or if I just eventually gave up.

Angela fed me in bed.  Thankfully, it wasn’t from a bottle but I’m pretty sure there might have been a baby spoon involved.  I couldn’t lift my head to eat, the movement was too much, so Angela literally had to feed me by the spoonful.

She made me rice, I tried to stomach cereal and even half a waffle.  That was about all I ate for most of the day.  My nightstand was littered with bottles of water, Gatorade and Diet 7-up, each adorned with its own straw that Angela held for me so I could manage a few sips every so often.

It was a long day, I was in that bed for almost 12 hours.  When I finally managed to get up, I felt like I was floating on air.  But I couldn’t handle another minute just lying there, away from my family, so I forced myself to head downstairs to rejoin the living and let the kiddos know that Daddy was going to be ok. (They just knew Daddy was “not feeling well”, which unfortunately is a refrain they hear much more than I’d prefer).

So what happened to me on Sunday - was it food poisoning, MS….or both?

Meanwhile, life goes on.  But, will it happen again?  Next month…or was it just some awful luck related to something bad I ate the night before?  If only I had a few  “Law & Order” detectives to help solve this mystery.

Monday, March 3, 2014

76 Things: #6

I’ve had and used a handicap parking placard over the past few years….but I have a love/loathe relationship with it.
I don’t use it every time.  I’m rarely out driving on my own (see 76 things, #2) and I don’t particularly go looking for the handicap spot.  If there are any nearby spots I defer to those…and my wife has a placard to use in her car when I’m travelling with her, too. 
Some days are better than others with my MS.  But maybe it’s a “cane day” (i.e., I need help walking around with my cane) and that makes the decision pretty easy.  Or, during the Summer, finding a handicap parking space is almost required.  After just a few steps in the San Antonio sun, I feel like I might pass out, so the shorter the distance to where I am going, the better.
But sometimes I simply just can’t stomach taking the spot so, even if it means parking far away, that’s what I’m going to prefer (or, if Angela is driving, plead with her to do J ).
I freely admit it’s mental.  I’m not perfect and this is certainly a part of me that needs to grow and/or just get over it.  But the moment we pull into a handicap space the cold sweat begins.  Are people looking at me? 
They are probably thinking “that guy looks fine”.   In my head, there are looks of disgust or disapproval at my usage of the handicap space.  I want to reassure them that I am worthy…maybe show them a membership card to the “Chronic Diseases Society” or put a bumper sticker on my car that says, “Yes, I have MS”.
And this imaginary projection of other people starts to grow on me.  I worry that I’m taking the space from somebody else that might need it more.
If I’m out on a date with my wife, I feel weak.  If I’m with my children, I’m worried for the inevitable questions to come about the blue placard or the special sign over the parking space we are in.

I wish it was easier…maybe if I was less stubborn on this issue?  Or didn’t view everything as a competition to show that I’m stronger than I really am?  Or didn’t let my imagination run wild, creating this parallel universe where the parking space one chooses somehow defines who you are?
These kind of mental challenges aside, my handicap parking permit has been a tremendous help and I thank my wife for pushing me to get it.  Multiple sclerosis is a battle on many fronts (physical, emotional and mental to name a few) and I need to adapt (and be more open to solutions) to endure.

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