The MS Astronaut Returns After a 10-day Hospital Stay

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by John Connor |

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So, where off Earth have I been?

Nothing as adventurous as a space flight, I’m afraid, but a more prosaic litany of mishaps.

First, I did crash, but that was from a vicious steroid withdrawal. My body went limp. Later, it would become even limper.

A small wound on the back of my heel worsened until it looked like it had been attacked by the Alien. Maybe the steroids had something to do with it. Regardless, my temperature reached 104 F (40 C) and I was duly carted off to the hospital.

It turned out I had cellulitis and ended up in the hospital for 10 days.

John in repose. It did wonders for his lymphedema, which vanished. (Courtesy of John Connor)

So, why the “MS astronaut” sobriquet?

When an astronaut or cosmonaut returns from a protracted stay on the International Space Station, their body can feel like a rag doll. No matter how much exercise they attempt on board (including running on the odd, space-adapted COLBERT treadmill), they lose calcium from their bones, causing them to weaken. It takes an inordinate amount of time to readjust to the stronger pull of gravity on Earth’s surface.

After 10 days in a hospital bed, I felt exactly the same. The occupational therapist had gotten me out of bed a few times using a Molift, but he relented when he found me asleep one afternoon.

I’d taken to afternoon siestas (OK, that is the very definition of a siesta) as it was the only time the ward was relatively quiet. My body must have been in self-healing mode, as it seemed to have turned into a cat. Not the running around or purring bits, but the ability to spend most of my days asleep.

Being a vegan in the hospital also turned out to be the same ol’, same ol’. There were microwaved “TV dinners,” but each contained nearly as much salt as my recommended monthly intake. Strange for a hospital! Everything else made in the kitchens was effectively a different take on potatoes and baked beans. I gave up, cut out the middlechef, and ate jacket potatoes and baked beans every day.

Dinnertime. Yum! (Photo by John Connor)

However, my diet changed.

I hadn’t been weighed in about three years. The hospital had movable hoists with a built-in scale. I was shocked to find out I was 255 pounds! Having biscuits with my coffee was now off-limits. From now on, I could only eat bananas and oranges. Dessert was also fruit. Luckily, the hospital served a very good fresh fruit cup with grapes, pineapple, and occasionally mango. Lunch was cut down to a hummus wrap and a naked side salad, because mayo was the only available accompaniment, and it’s obviously not vegan-friendly.

My diet remained the same for the rest of my stay.

Luckily, I like baked beans and jacket potatoes, but it will be a while before I indulge again.

A week later, medical staff weighed me again and I was down to 247 pounds.

Admittedly, some of the weight loss might have been the result of all the lymph fluid disappearing from my legs. It’s amazing what lying down for two weeks can do for a fella. When I got home, my calves were like sticks. All of the muscles I built up over years of playing sports had unsurprisingly disappeared.

I’ve spent the last few years indulging in snacks and vegan ice cream, but no longer. It’s fruit all the way down.

Now that I’m home, my weakness has continued. Carers come four times a day, and I’ve been trying to lift myself upright onto the Molift at lunchtime and teatime. Some 30 minutes ago, I managed it twice!

I’m back, baby. I apologize to my two readers. Did you miss me?


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Emily avatar


I noticed that your article in my inbox on Mondays was missing. I hope you start to build up a little more strength. The food you were eating sounds really good to me. :)

Kathleen Fulghum avatar

Kathleen Fulghum

Thank you for your encouraging humor, John! You're a welcome spice in the bland and sometimes confusing MS data (let's face it: for me now, daily life is confusing.) Live long and prosper.

Heather avatar


You have been missed! ?

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

That's one small step for John!

John Connor avatar

John Connor

If only. x

Wendy Hovey avatar

Wendy Hovey

Of course we missed you! But do you have to go to such extremes to test our loyalty?!

Leanne Broughton avatar

Leanne Broughton

Sorry you've been unwell. It's good to be home.

Jan avatar


I really did miss you, John. You’ve had the s**t kicked out of you. I’m so glad you’re home and writing. Keep the faith.

Lynn avatar


I wondered where you were and hoped you were doing ok. Glad to “read” you are back and getting stronger. I appreciate your honesty and humor writing about your struggles and triumphs with this horrible disease MS. I have had MS for 31 years and it has progressed to SPMS now with worsening mobility problems. I enjoy your column and look forward to reading it every Monday. Stay strong and feel better!

Olya Fessard avatar

Olya Fessard

John, I had almost the exact hospital experience though I am only 146 pounds. However, I also read your column about constipation. I want to pass along the advice of the best gastroenterologist in Atlanta, Georgia. He said that he takes one capful of metamucil a day and he has a bowel movement each day with not a single cramp. I often had blocked bowels. After trying this, no more constipation. Never cramping as your constipation med has as a side effect. And it lowers colesterol. Don't know if it is available in the UK, but it's generic name is psyllium. Hope this helps!


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