Learning the hard way that with MS, no infection is routine

Those of us with multiple sclerosis should always take UTIs seriously

Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

by Benjamin Hofmeister |

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I’ve never been one to worry too much about what my purpose in life is. It’s not that I’m incapable of being philosophical, or that I was ever too egotistical to think I needed one. I suppose I just thought that if I had a purpose, it’d work itself out, whether or not I put any effort into it.

Since becoming a parent, my purpose mostly seems to be ensuring that my children thrive. Because I have three boys and half their DNA comes from me, it sometimes feels more like I’m ensuring they survive to adulthood, despite their best efforts. To me, my multiple scars are the perfect blueprint of what not to do, but my kids often don’t see it that way. In typical childlike disconnect, they seem to feel that either those things could never happen to them, or that my original plans simply need improvement.

I wish I could tell you that because of the wisdom that comes with age, I’m past that sort of thinking. It wouldn’t be true, though. My latest bout of foolishness didn’t leave any visible scars to point to as I relate this tale, but it left an imprint on me. Hopefully, there’s a lesson here worth passing on to others. Bear with me, please.

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A hard lesson

I haven’t felt quite right in what seems like months. I’ve had worse than normal fatigue (whatever “normal” is), increased weakness, and an all-around unwell feeling. My urine was a bit cloudy with an unusual odor, so I suspected a urinary tract infection (UTI). There was no pain, though, which I always assumed was a big part of one. So when an initial urinalysis came back negative, I wrote off the possibility.

I know that my multiple sclerosis (MS) increases my risk of developing UTIs, and I have the wisdom of experience from fellow columnist John Connor right in front of me. Still, like a child, I didn’t believe it’d ever be a part of my experience. Unfortunately, it is now — and it was quite an experience.

Apparently, a UTI doesn’t like being ignored, as mine spread up to my kidneys. A low-grade fever and chills took hold, but the idea that the kids would bring a respiratory infection home from school was firmly in my mind, so I assumed that was it. My symptoms were worse the next day, with the addition of straining to (incompletely) empty my bladder, so I grudgingly allowed an appointment at the local clinic to be made.

I need to pause here because it’s starting to sound like I did any of this process on my own. My dear wife saved the day — and me from myself — as usual. Bless her, she hasn’t even said “I told you so!” though she certainly has the right to.

The lab results at the clinic sent us to the emergency room, and I was admitted to the hospital for a three-night stay. Eight liters of saline brought my blood pressure back up, and IV antibiotics got the pyelonephritis under control. For what I hope are forgivable reasons, I didn’t feel up to completing a column last week, and the MS News Today staff let me slide. I hope you will, too.

I also hope you learn from my example. It may have ended with me safely back at home, but it’s definitely an example of what not to do. Maybe I do have a purpose after all. Like the demotivational poster says, perhaps the purpose of my life is to serve as a warning to others.

Take care of yourself.

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.


Anna avatar


Thank you Ben, the most important thing is that you got over it, though I suppose it will take a while before you recover completely. I think my purpose in life might be the same as yours - serve as a warning to others:) I've made so many mistakes, some of which influenced my health. Well, we are just humans I suppose. I'm so happy I discovered this website. It gives me a lot of strength to see how other people cope with this disease. Take care.

Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

Benjamin Hofmeister

Thank you Anna! I never wanted anyone to think I was a perfect self advocate, or had this MS journey all figured out. In this case I might have gone too far.

I hope others can learn from my mistakes because I'm sure I'll make plenty more.


Mark Frulla avatar

Mark Frulla

Thank you for sharing your experience, Ben. That story really resonates with me. Hearing stories like this from members of our own population, so to speak, lends more credence and I tend to pay attention. Thank you!

Happy to hear you are recovering well.

Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

Benjamin Hofmeister

Thanks Mark! Let's hope I pay more attention too.


Cay Borduin avatar

Cay Borduin

I'm glad you're back! So I was at the emergency care clinic explaining my symptoms, which I believed was a UTI. It's hard to identify these things when you have MS. I'm like "My urine smells funny and I'm way weaker than normal." The nurse literally said "That's it?"

Turned out I did have a UTI and felt bizarrely righteous!

Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

Benjamin Hofmeister

Thanks for the comment Cay!

I can't help but think of New Orleans weather forecast and will describe my urinary symptoms like that from now on.

"Cloudy, smelly, and warmer than normal"


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