You’ve got a Napoleon complex, you have, mate

How my MS muscle spasticity seems to indicate the severity of my UTIs

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by John Connor |

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I don’t have a Napoleon complex in the sense of being small. My body still spans 6 feet, though that’s only when I’m lying down; I doubt I get anywhere near 5 feet tall while seated in my wheelchair. Saint Jane (my wife) is 5-foot-2, and I now look up to her. Mind you, I did so even when I towered over her.

I’m also not suggesting I have an overbearing personality. OK, OK, maybe I do. But this column isn’t a psychoanalysis session now, is it?

My complex is the result of my right arm presently being cramped up across my chest. It turns out this pose is exactly how French commander Napoleon Bonaparte is depicted in the majority of his portraits. Only, the look seems to have been merely an affectation of the period, which Bonaparte adopted and turned into his trademark. Even the likes of George Washington had already done it. I always hate it when the real history undermines a good story — so he hadn’t lost his hand or maimed it in battle, then!

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That UTI — was it caused by MS or was it the meat?

My Napoleonic arm, however, is because my neurons are misfiring — a result of the demyelination caused by multiple sclerosis (MS). The resulting muscle spasticity means my right arm is constantly flexed — though that’s turned out not to be strictly true. Late last November, I was admitted to the hospital after a urinary tract infection (UTI) finally overwhelmed me. When I was eventually discharged in early February, I was told I had absolutely no infection markers.

That was all well and good, but I felt like Jell-O. Only my left arm still worked. My attending hospital doctors presumed that my illness had probably triggered further MS progression. I was too ill to argue; I tried, but quickly apologized the next day.

I should have stuck to my illegal guns (we’re not allowed to have them here in the U.K.), as about a month into my recovery, everything I lost came back. Even better, my increasingly painful and Napoleonic right arm started softening. It hasn’t gotten close to fully functioning again, but its range doubled. There was also no pain at all.

A man is seated in his wheelchair and wearing a purple life jacket over a black, white, and gray striped shirt. His right arm is bent at the elbow, and his right hand, curled in a fist, is resting against his abdomen. The man is indoors, with a door and some furniture visible behind him.

John “Bonny” Connor is heroically ready for his first swim of the summer. (Photo by Jane Davies)

My neurologist told me that this change wasn’t an MS recovery; “That just doesn’t happen,” I was told. My improvement was instead because my constant UTI symptoms were easing. But now that they’ve returned, my arm is reverting to its best hero pose — though it’s the worst for me.

My arm seems to act like a barometer of my infection levels. This year, it indicated that I clawed my way back from the freezing hell of Moscow, only to be eventually captured and exiled to the island of Elba.

If it relaxes again, I’ll have escaped and will be able to raise my final French army. I can only hope that my urologists will stop me from facing my own Waterloo.

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.


Tom Arild Fjeld avatar

Tom Arild Fjeld

Dear friends
I have had all types of MS sympthoms since I wew 14 years of age, now I am 70 years. I have been doing all kinds of sports, at the age of 65 I took black belt in Krav Maga, even with 5 strokes and paralysis in my right side and and with very little balance. None of the trainers belived I could allmost make anything out of the Krav Maga, but after 7 years I got the black belt adn the first dan.

Trish Nafotz avatar

Trish Nafotz

Could it be related to fever? Does cooling the arm help?


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