It was three years since I’d seen my best mate Nigel. The last time had been when we said goodbye at London City Airport after our three-day sozzled sojourn (OK, drunken trip) round the Scottish Isle of Islay. To the uninitiated, a pilgrimage for those who worship peat in their dram of whiskey, but that is another story/column. Our wives met us airport arrivals, and were suitably impressed that we’d made it back.
What you need to know is that both of us are disabled through sclerosis (he’s only had the one, though it was the size of a category 5 hurricane) and had became friends in the days of our able-bodyment (yes, another column). We hadn’t seen each other, partly due to geography (I’m a Londoner, he’s on the South Coast), but mainly because of maladies. For either him, or me, every plan sunk.
This time it was going to be me. I was in some sort of agony round my left hip. It had been slowly gnawing away at me for the past few weeks. The pain increased my fatigue exponentially.
I was going outside on my trip — it had been good enough for Scott of the Antarctic. Sure, he was bravely facing death, but I, too, might not finish my trip. I might not even make it to the car! There was, though, the anesthetic of a night of drinking incredibly good malt whiskey to claw myself to.
I made it! A good time was most definitely had. It hadn’t helped my physical well-being, but it sure cheered me up.
None of this was going through my head a few days later when I was somewhat preoccupied by the shower cubicle effectively eating me.
This will take some explanation …
By now there was so much pain shooting through my left hip that it would just collapse. Unfortunately this happened in the shower and I ended in a fetal position in the bottom of the pan. It’s a quarter-circle cubicle, so there is a bit of room. I’m six-foot tall and even at my athletic best (in my youth I’d been a capable all rounder club cricketer), I was not lithe. There was no way I could have ever consciously attempted this, especially with MS. Yet, here I was, crying for help and whimpering.
My oldest son lives with us, which is de rigueur of today’s economy. He works in a retirement home, but he’d never been involved with anything quite this bizarre.
Besides me being a lump, there was also the pain of the hip to deal with. Between the two of us, we worked out that if my legs could go straight up that would be a start. And somehow we managed it.
My pain eased.
I looked ridiculous.
Dignity wasn’t the problem; MS is always, at some point, going to humiliate, so get used to it.
The initial crisis had passed.
My son and wife burst into hysterical laughter. I joined in.
It was midnight and this had the hallmarks of needing a fire brigade rescue. Yet, somehow between the three of us, we managed to extricate me. This was especially brave of my son, who was recovering from a major nose operation. I stoically didn’t flail.
After this I did go and see my doctor, though the journey was truly painful. We both thought it was a bursa on my left hip (so said the internet), something that anyone can get. It turned out that a friend of my wife’s also had been afflicted, and brought to a virtual stop. When you also have an illness like MS, it’s disability squared.
Went onto a high dose of codeine to get through the next few weeks, which creates its own problems. I won’t elaborate, but it explains to me why heroin addicts don’t eat!
Eventually I got to see a physiotherapist who, in five minutes, analyzed my problem. I had a gluteal tendinopathy; basically a series of tears in the left tendon brought on by several years of dragging my immobile right leg around. MS was the culprit, but at least there was something I could do about it. I was given strengthening exercises, which I do every day.
So, the fight back is on. I’m back to work and am now battling just one more ancillary symptom, edema. In my case, the swelling of the lower legs/ankles/feet exacerbated by my recent immobility.
Two weeks solid stuck in my bedroom did have one upside: I got so bored I sent in a speculative story I’d written about MS to this website.
So, now I’m a columnist!
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