What it’s Like: Numb Hands with MS

UPDATED: 2019-08-28 
I’m not a technophobe. Hardly. I design and run my own website. I diagnose PC problems remotely, barking out step-by-step commands from memory. I learn involved software programs in just a couple hours of fiddling around. But I don’t hold long conversations via text. Now I know what you are thinking. I must also hunt my own food with a spear and constantly yearn for a future that includes fire not solely sparked by lightning strikes. But see, I have a wee problem that prevents efficient texting. It’s a disease called multiple sclerosis and one of my personal issues—indeed one of many—happens to be numb and clumsy hands. So for those friends who insist on not answering the phone when I call, and won’t call me back even though my phone number clearly shows that I called (don’t worry, I rarely leave a message, since that would be especially annoying), I invite you to spend an hour in my klutzy fingered world.

Put on a pair of ski gloves. I won’t be cruel and make you wear mittens (for me it’s usually not that bad), but find a modestly thick pair with a bit of insulation. Now let’s have some fun!

What’s that noise? Why, it’s your alarm going off in the morning. Just hit that tiny button to turn it off. No, not that button. Whoops, no that one’s the radio. Don’t hit the snooze, it’ll just go off again in 8 minutes. Okay, unplugging it works. Yawn. What’s next? Fumbling with soap in the shower is a pain, shaving might slice an artery, and let’s not even try to adjust the temperature just right in the shower since you can’t really feel that either (plus your gloves aren’t Gore-Tex), so let’s skip getting clean. Brushing your teeth is only a wee bit awkward since you dropped the tiny toothpaste cap in the sink and not on the floor. And fortunately since I’m a dude, I won’t make you put on all your makeup or fix your hair with gloves on—after all, messy is in these days. Let’s just throw on some clothes and get dressed.

Hmm. Buttoning a shirt with a pair of gloves is hard, huh? Fine, despite it being in the 90s, today can be a sweater day just for you. But you have to wear a pair of pants and they have a button and a zipper. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…. Wow, I’m glad this isn’t a timed Olympic event…. Done? Perfect! Now you have to go the bathroom. Sorry, that means unbuttoning and unzipping. And yeah, you gotta go #2. And yeah, you have to keep your gloves on while you wipe. Um, and yeah, I don’t need those gloves back. Really, you can have them. Let’s call it an early b-day present.

Ready for breakfast? Oh wait, you still need to button and zip your pants. Looks like you’ll be running a bit late for work today. Again. Sigh. No matter, it’s time for your morning rant where you blame manufacturers instead of your gloves. Why do box tops of cereal NEVER work right? Why are cartons of milk IMPOSSIBLE to open? Why are vitamins so TINY? Why is the foil on yogurt SO hard to take off? And why can’t scientists genetically engineer an orange so you can ACTUALLY peel it? And speaking of oranges, you are out of orange juice, so put that on your grocery list. I know, I know, it’s hard to pick up a pen with your gloves on. Writing is even harder so abbreviations are fine. Um, that doesn’t look like “OJ” but I know what you mean.

His fingers have as much feeling as mine!
Times a tickin’! Grab some change for the soda machine and let’s cruise. No, no, not all of your change, just a few coins. Nope, not enough. Nope, too much. Ah heck, let’s skip the Diet Coke today. Oh, and I always lock the house when I leave. No, that’s my car key. No, that’s the mail key. Nope, that’s for the storage shed. That’s my grocery store frequent shopper card. Uh, that’s a key for a doggy door. No, I have no idea why I keep that on my key ring. Yes, I know I don’t even own a dog nor have a doggy door, much less one that locks. (I really need to trim the number of keys on my key ring.) Aha, you found it: the house key! Finally we are moments away from being off. Just slip the car key into the ignition. No, that’s the house key…. The mail key…. The house key again….

Finally, to finish off your hour, send me a detailed text message (not while driving) apologizing for not understanding my disability and saying that despite your personal quest to not talk on the phone unless absolutely necessary—you will make a rare exception in my case when I call. After you spend a frustrating 15 minutes composing a message that would have taken 15 seconds to relay verbally, hit send and take off your gloves. And forever remember that I can never remove mine. 


Judy said…
Very well said.
Anonymous said…
Ahhh, for me it's the feet. Super clumsy and no wearing flip flops 'cos they would just fall out.
I was at this party last night, I had a drink in my hand and I was carefully walking across the room watching my step, and someone asked me if I was already drunk (on one sip). That's how I describe my general symptoms, I have all the side effects without drinking
Dave Bexfield said…
I had to give up my Birkenstocks years ago. They would just fly off randomly, often striking innocent bystanders. It got to be annoying, so I switched to Keens, which stay on until I take them off.
Big Al said…
The hands are getting better. I'm still working off my first attack. I use a mini iPad I got the mini just because it was easier to hold than the big iPad. And typing with one finger is much easier. I have a 6 mo old kitten and I've learned to shut him out when I take my pills because anything I drop he thinks is fair game. And I don't think the Gabapentin would be to go for him. My feet are also getting really numb. I just started to walk in PT without any equipment other that my Therapists belt. So I traded flip flops for sandals because I'm afraid of the flop part of flip flops. Anyway Susan will say t " ok take another step!" I'm like "I thought I did. Wait! Were are my feet?"
Dave Bexfield said…
I gave up my Birkenstocks years ago for the exact same reason. They would just fly off my feet and Laura decided that what too much of a hazard to me and to unsuspecting folks I happened to be walking past.

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