Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Be Alert to Other Monsters


I have an uncanny knack of hurting myself in bizarre ways. A month ago I dorked it up and broke my pinky toe on a closet doorjamb rushing to get a bathrobe so I wouldn’t have to answer the doorbell naked. That got me wondering… What could I do to top that? I pride myself on being an overachiever, going the extra mile. When I do something, I do it right. So the other day, at 4:21 a.m. (give or take), I rolled over to my wife, who was sound asleep like an angel resting on a bed of clouds, and cooed into her ear something to the effect of “Honey, there is a chance I am having a heart attack.”

That’s perhaps the last thing you want to say to your spouse at 4:21 in the morning. Those heavenly sleepy clouds dissipated in a hurry and my angel was now propped up in bed with frazzled hair, big eyes and a suspicious crooked eyebrow. But I felt I really didn’t have a choice. I woke up ten minutes earlier with uncomfortable chest pain and difficulty breathing. It didn’t feel like an MS hug and it couldn’t be a heart attack, could it? I mean, I exercise vigorously every day, I’m only 44, and there is no family history. So naturally I did the first thing one always does in a potential medical crisis. I Googled it. And what did Google tell me? Stop Googling, you idiot, and call 911.

Our house is less than five minutes away from the nearest hospital—we could drive there quicker than most ambulances could even get to our home. So the two of us hustled to get dressed (I carefully avoided doorjambs) and soon we were in the ER surrounded by doctors and nurses. It’s amazing how fast the medical staff works when you complain of chest pains. And my first doc didn’t dim my concerns. “I’ve had a few cases like yours where I would have bet the house there was no heart attack, but the tests came back shockingly positive. Or it could be gas.”

Did I wake up Laura at 4:21 a.m. and have her drive me to the emergency room because of some digestive issues? Now I was doubly scared. But when some liquid concoction I swallowed didn’t help matters, an overactive colon seemed unlikely. We were stuck waiting for the required six hours before a blood test could rule out a mild heart attack. Another doctor had other suspicions.

“What did you do yesterday?” I just exercised, I told him. Tried some new stuff. Lots of twisting with heavy weights. “Hmm. You strained your chest. When the test comes back negative you can go home. Take it easy for the next few days.” The paper he handed me described my issue perfectly. “A strain of the chest is due to stretching and tearing of the muscle fibers between the ribs. This may occur as a result of strenuous lifting or twisting injuries of the upper back. This usually causes increased pain with movement or deep breathing.”

Mission accomplished! I dorked it up to an entirely new level, surprising even myself. But seriously, there is a lesson to be learned here. When you have multiple sclerosis, it’s easy to attribute every symptom to your disease… and then ignore it or push past it. The reality, though, is that we are not immune to life’s other maladies. Don’t ignore or overlook symptoms. It could mean life or death—catching a cancer early or a stroke before it does permanent damage. Or it could just be some mad gas or a textbook case of dorkness.

6 comments:

Lyla said...

It is amazing isn't it to see how quickly ER staff get things in motion when you say the words, "chest pain."

When I was first diagnosed, everything that hurt was MS. It eventually occurred to me that there was a time in my life when my body didn't know it had MS. There's a lot of stuff going on in there that needs my time and attention! So MS just has to share!

Marc said...

This is my problem, too! When I turned 40 last year, MS decided to join me in my mid-life crises. I tend to dismiss as MS-related anything that happens on my left half of my body, where MS is affecting me. This is a good reminder for us all that MS is definitely not alone.

Anonymous said...

Incredible. All I can really say is I'm glad you are OK.

Diane J Standiford said...

Must be repeated, everything will not be MS. I got ovarian cancer 5 yrs post MS DX, stuff happens.

Janis Williams said...

Women can be dorks, too. Pre-DX, I was in the ER with an MS hug, but I only figured that out years later.

Last fall, I pulled a good one. While bending over to tie my shoe, I bruised my spleen. It didn't fool me into thinking it was a heart attack, but sure hurt like the dickens.

MS isn't able to do some of the stupid things I manage all by myself.

Dave Bexfield said...

Janis, you bruised your spleen tying your shoe? That is a new one to me, congrats. You have officially joined me in the dork club.