Reflections from the front line, take 2: Back into the fray

A battle with MS and urinary tract infections leads to another hospitalization

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by John Connor |

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There was no column from me last week, and here follows the reason why: “In the wee small hours,” as Frank Sinatra so eloquently crooned, I, too, was abruptly awake. Only I hadn’t drunk my way there. Instead, my wee was indeed a real one, though painfully intermittent.

Blearily, I sunk back into the all-enveloping arms of Morpheus, a sneaky god you just can’t kick out of bed, even if you still possessed the capacity to kick. Warning bells should have clanked themselves so hard in my bones that sleep shouldn’t have won. Instead, I woke in the morrow to a sodden mess.

My classic symptom of a truly aggressive urinary tract infection (UTI) is that wee pumps out of my penis like it’s letting off steam — literally in dribs and drabs. Such events are surprising because they’re the only time any wee gets ejected this way since multiple sclerosis caused my bladder sphincter to shut for — ahem — business in 2012.

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I was also in a terrible mess in the bot-bot department and in desperate need of my regular morning shower. So it was just after noon when I got settled in my wheelchair and ready to face this latest crisis. As per usual, it struck on the weekend, a Saturday, so I had to call for an emergency doctor.

He eventually turned up at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning and agreed that I did have a UTI. Nitrofurantoin was prescribed. I immediately swallowed the pill, and for the next 15 hours, it seemed the crisis was over.

Or was it?

Ah, steroids

Last week’s fallow column was supposed to be centered on having a regular post-steroid crash — which I hinted at in my last published opus, So that particular Saturday morning, I was squashed by steroid cold turkey. It wasn’t necessarily painful, but the very weight of the atmosphere felt like it had tripled!

You’re not supposed to take steroids if you have any symptoms of anything at all. Doing so will accelerate any nasty bacteria or viruses into proverbial orbit. But I was as right as the precipitation manages to be these days under the stress of climate change.

It was no coincidence, then, that only a day later, the embedded creepy-crawlies in my bladder erupted. I thought I was free of UTIs, as there’d been no whiff of them since I left the hospital in January. And I really do mean “whiff,” as we UTI aficionados become experts at smelling our own urine after each wee.

I don’t piss about with bags at the end of my intermittent catheter, though. Long ago, I adopted leakproof portable urinal bottles into my arsenal of supplies. They also make excellent odor-testing devices.

The second nitrofurantoin tablet didn’t touch the infection. I was trying to eat pasta one-handed. My right arm and shoulder had by this point completely seized up, which is a normal exacerbation of my MS symptoms.

Suddenly, I started shaking, and the pasta I was attempting to eat one-handed flew all over the bed. Saint Jane (my wife) heard my shout of anguish, sussed the situation, and wisely called emergency services. They agreed and immediately dispatched an ambulance, which arrived in minutes.

As I intend to write next week, things were actually quite serious. I write “intend” in case something else erupts. MS life is often quiet — until suddenly it isn’t.

The medical term for my high-temperature shakes turned out to be “rigor.” Though I was obviously in a terrible state, I managed to negotiate going to a different hospital than the one closest to me. That’s because I’d spent an awful two months — somewhat ironically — wrapped around Christmas there. The beds were way too small for me, and I’d rather try anywhere else.

As it turns out, it was the best medical decision I’ve made in years.


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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