Reflections from the front line: Awakening to the new dawn
When MS, COVID-19, and UTIs meet, the encounter is anything but pleasant
COVID-19 had finally left me. Its only trace was a pair of slimy hands. For a month, I requested a towel in bed to wipe them dry.
My wife, Jane, told me my hands were fine; my phone’s screen, however, didn’t agree. As my companion in the hospital was now my phone, I took its side. I, of course, never told Jane that. But it’s perfectly safe to reveal it here, as Jane rarely reads my column.
I remember very little, if any, of last December. The delirium that my intense case of urinary tract infection — which landed me in the hospital in the first place — conferred upon me was then heightened by COVID-19. Days passed in a haze of orderlies placing food in front of me and nurses dealing with the output from the other end.
There was an upside: I could happily watch films again and again. So there really was the endless entertainment promised by the streaming services — you just had to be put through the medical ringer first.
Just one shower
My brain was now aware enough to realize that it was no longer working properly. And only the top left quarter of my body still functioned. I referred to myself as “triplegic.”
The first doctor’s round that I remember was not a good one. I asked the somewhat fateful question, “Will I stay like this?” To which the only sensible reply was, “Illness can affect your multiple sclerosis, so yes.”
I put up a spirited argument to counter this statement. But then, as my brain continued to improve, by the following week I was deeply apologetic for my attitude. Of course my MS may well have been seriously affected.
Lying in bed now seemed the only thing I could do. It was the easiest of skills — and one I easily mastered.
Despair didn’t engulf me. I just didn’t have the energy to sustain it. What I really wanted was a shower. A stink was now emanating from me that no amount of bed baths could eliminate. The only way I was allowed to have one is if the physiotherapist approved it, and then they would also have to supervise it.
After eight weeks, I finally got one. My wish was granted. Was I wobbly? Yes, but ensconced in a shower chair, I was perfectly safe. Ah, the sheer exuberance of it. Amazing!
Then, suddenly, it all went gangbusters. I had to dry and pack. Obviously, I was in no condition to do it myself, so a nurse kindly helped. Within hours, I was picked up by an ambulance and was on my way to the rehab clinic that I’d been waiting for.
The days of my bed-blocking — which in the U.K. refers to when you’re in a hospital bed that you no longer need for clinical purposes, but you can’t leave until other safe facilities are available — were over. It was humorous that I finally got a shower on the day I was whisked off to someplace where I could have one every morning.
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You have been very sick. I am so sorry. Glad to hear you are on the mend. Now the hard part. I hope you will recover your abilities in rehab. My thoughts and best wishes are with you.
Wendy Roe Hovey
MS hasn't taken away your irreverence. So there, damned disease!