And a good time was had by the sclerosis boys

Over a bottle of Tomatin, old friends briefly forget about their health challenges

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by John Connor |

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I haven’t seen my mate Nige for years. Actually, to his face I call him Nigel, but it’s Nige when I, or anyone else, talk about him in the third person.

It’s weird — I’d never thought about that before typing his name just now. And it’s not like he hasn’t had a starring role in a number of columns I’ve knocked out for Multiple Sclerosis News Today in the past six years.

Sorry, I meant to say “crafting my contributions oh so carefully in the hovel that is my writing garret.” Well, I did exactly that when I was in my 20s, but as I’m now in my 60s, it’s all dead cushy, except I’ve got a great big crack in the wall due to global warming-induced subsidence.

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Streams of whisky

Nige and I have both been afflicted by sclerosis — in his case, clinically isolated syndrome, and in mine, multiple sclerosis. His was a one-time thing that brought him to the precipice of death until he was saved by what was then a new medical technique here in the U.K. This was 20 years ago, and the treatment — pioneered in the U.S. — involved filtering his blood.

An unopened box with a bottle of Tomatin 12-year single malt Scotch inside sits on a desk cluttered with items.

An unopened bottle of Tomatin 12-year single malt Scotch. The glories inside wouldn’t last long. (Photo by John Connor)

However, the condition left him unable to swallow, so he lives by pumping pulped food into his stomach via a fitted PEG, a type of feeding tube. His walking ability is very limited, and he has vertigo so bad that he goes to the hospital once a month for ketamine infusions, which help him profoundly. Even if they didn’t, he wouldn’t be foolish enough to admit it! (His joke, not mine.)

Anyway, I haven’t seen Nige since sometime before the COVID-19 lockdowns started here in early 2020, when we met at a bistro on the Hastings seafront promenade. It’s all nice and flat there, so it was perfect for my wheelchair. I can’t get into his house, which is about 60 miles away from mine, because it’s surrounded by too many steep steps. Clever move, eh?

We’d made many plans to meet up after being released from the lockdowns, but illness — both his and mine — always prevented it.

Last Christmas we were supposed to have an epic whisky-fueled party. Instead, we both thought we were dying. My fears were ignited by the paranoia of having COVID-19 and being moved to a private hospital room without being told why for 12 hours. I was already incredibly ill from a runaway urinary tract infection, and I thought I’d been put there to hide me away for my last few hours on the planet. What can I say? It’s what any worthy prima donna would do.

Meanwhile, Nige was actually facing the Big One. He had three types of gremlins attacking his lungs, the worst of which was a fungal one. He was still in poor condition months later, when I was in a good enough state to ring him.

An empty bottle of Scotch sits on a table with various bottles and glasses in the background.

No drama was caused by this great dram. (Photo by John Connor)

After the requisite cancellation the previous week, we finally met up last Friday. Because I can’t get into his house, he was gracious enough to come to mine. He even asked what whisky he should bring. As his Christmas gift was an Advent whisky calendar — that’s right, 24 superbly curated miniatures supplied by our most trusted spirits purveyor — I chose the 12-year-old single malt whisky by Tomatin. Now, because I’d only gotten stuck into it a few months ago, I hoped my palate wouldn’t let me down.

It was delivered a few weeks ago and remained in pristine condition on my desk. Good thing, too, because we drained the lot in the five hours he was here. In truth, we were helped by my two adult sons who know a good whisky when they get their lips around one.

Our time together flew by and was punctuated by a superb Jamaican vegan curry cooked by the ever-wonderful Saint Jane (my wife) and a meander through jazz musicians crossed with rap artists, thanks to Nige and my very interested son Jack. At least that’s what I think they were chatting about, as it all went very beyond me.

I think Jack was dead impressed by the breadth of Nige’s musical knowledge, although he’d never show it.

At the start of those five hours together, we questioned each other about our various maladies. But eventually, I’d sort of forgotten that we have them.


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.

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