Dragged into my MS diagnosis, but now jumping for a cure: Part 3

How I embraced — and named — my mobility aids

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by Mike Parker |

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Multiple Sclerosis News Today is chronicling MS advocate and podcaster Mike Parker’s journey, leading up to a skydiving jump he’ll make Oct. 29 to benefit the MS Society U.K. Learn more about Mike at mikesmsjourney.com. You can also donate to his fundraiser

Third in a series. Read parts one and two.

It won’t be long now! A few days from now, on Oct. 29, I’ll be airborne in a plane, ready to take on this skydiving adventure to fight MS. To say the excitement is building would be an understatement.

I have some unsung heroes I’d like to mention that have helped me on my journey. Without them, I would’ve struggled to get around, and leaving the house would’ve been nearly impossible at times. I have no doubt this jump wouldn’t have happened if not for them.

My heroes are my mobility aids. When I started using them, I didn’t want to accept them. Eventually, though, I found ways not only to accept them, but to absolutely love them. I feel proud to have them alongside me.

Crutches: my gateway to mobility aids

It wasn’t too long ago that walking around wasn’t a big issue for me. But that changed quickly after I had a few falls.

I booked an appointment with a physical therapist, who noticed my right foot was dragging while I walked, a symptom called foot drop. The therapist gave me crutches to help me with balance. I resisted using them at first, but after a brief period of struggling, I learned to accept them.

To help make the transition lighter, I gave them nicknames. I’ll share those nicknames with you, but please don’t laugh too much. I named them “Stick-stick-sticky-stick” and “Sticky-sticky-stick-stick.”

Then came the next big change …

A wheelchair for when I’m out and about

Not long after I’d adopted the crutches, I noticed that when my family was away, I struggled to walk. It wasn’t because of foot drop; the cause was my fatigue. Walking just a few meters made my legs feel like they were on fire. The exhaustion then spread, and my entire body would need rest. So I got a wheelchair.

I’ve been hitting the gym to prepare for my upcoming skydiving outing, but I’ve also been focusing on upper body strength so that wheeling myself will be a little easier.

As with the crutches, I fought the idea of using a wheelchair. So I used the same tactic to overcome it: I assigned a nickname to the wheelchair. This time, though, the name was based on a film I enjoy. Thus, The DeLorean joined my team.

Going big with a mobility scooter

A bald, middle-aged man wearing a blue shirt, jeans, and sits on a red mobility scooter in a bricked parking lot, with two cars in the background. It looks to be next to a road in a residential neighborhood.

Mike Parker and his good friend Eleanor, the mobility scooter. (Courtesy of Mike Parker)

The next mobility aid in my arsenal came about almost by accident. One day while out and about with my dad and my wife, someone mentioned that a mobility aid shop was nearby with a couple of scooters out front. We figured it was worth a visit.

While I knew I probably needed one, I was still scared to take yet another step toward depending more on mobility aids. But after having a look, I realized that one item — a red mobility scooter — stood out. So I bought it.

By the second or third time I used it, I was already feeling self-conscious. Then some people passing in a car targeted me with verbal abuse. I was upset at first, but then I felt empowered, and that self-consciousness disappeared. I felt proud.

Why would anyone think it’s OK to abuse someone just because they need other ways to get around? I concluded that it was their problem, not mine.

The next step was naming the scooter. I chose Eleanor — again from a movie I enjoy.

Finally, and most importantly …

My favorite toy: a functional electrical stimulation device

Because my foot drop was such a big problem, my physical therapist and I agreed that I’d benefit from using a functional electrical stimulation (FES) device. This little box sits on my pocket and is connected to two wires, which are attached to two patches on my right leg. When my right heel comes off the floor, the switch sends a signal, and the patches then jolt a small electrical stimulation to the nerves that lift the front of the foot.

With the FES device, a lot has improved with my ability to walk. The whole thing is fully removable, so I use it only as needed. It’s an incredible little machine. I’ve named it Frank.

Soon a plane will carry me into the sky, but devices like these will carry me to the plane. As hard as it can be for me to accept having new things to get me around, they do make life a little easier. Finding ways to make the transition more comfortable — such as my giving them names — has made it less of a big deal. We all need good humor to persevere.

Next week: The big day arrives. Read about how Mike’s jump went. 

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.


Darrell Crane avatar

Darrell Crane

I see you like 80s rock music. Many years back, I was the lead singer and guitar in a rock band.

Darrell Crane avatar

Darrell Crane

how can I get parts 1&2?

Tom A. avatar

Tom A.

Seems like your jumping project has been good therapy for you. In the beginning when I was first using a cane and shaking a bit, I was still single and still interested in “mixing” at the local pub. They had a Karaoke night, and thus began my 4 year karaoke journey. If I could get in front of a crowd and sing, and be comfortable with that, I didn’t really need to hide anything. It was a lot of fun and I met a lot of people. In time, no more cane and the shaking stopped, but I kept on singing. Met my wife through a list of people advertising their “singleness and availability”, however (another story).



it is great that you have named the things that help you ,just like i call MS a monster that tries to stop me but never will....take care and be careful...wow jumping out of a plane ..wow we all have things that we do just to say we could...love and happiness...

Patricia P. Garrett avatar

Patricia P. Garrett

Want more information on the neural sleeve and the vitamin D supplementation. Has anyone used and success rate.


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