Imitating Humpty, Mr. Humpty Dumpty

In the fall of 2009 I had what I consider my first official MS fall—almost four years to the day of my first relapse. Now I’d had falls before, but they were “planned” falls, where I knew my hosed legs weren’t going to get me far enough—the resulting teetering crash and burns were wholly expected. And the “falls” were more collapses of exhaustion than true face plants. But this one fall, it was as if a gremlin reached out and grabbed my left leg.  I clunked down in such dramatic fashion that Humpty himself would have been proud. I surveyed my splayed-out body for damage—conveniently located on the living room floor instead of, say, the parking lot of Wal-Mart—and it appeared I had escaped unscathed. Not even a rug burn from the berber carpet.

But strange, my left toenail had a white stripe on it. Huh, I thought. I wiggled my toe, no problems there. I wiggled my toenail, and it LIFTED UP LIKE THE HATCHBACK ON A SUBARU OUTBACK. Okay, problems there. I promptly “closed” my toenail and secured it with a band aid. No major damage so no biggie, right? It would have been no biggie, only for the fact that I was leaving on a dream (and long-promised) escape to Italy with my lovely wife Laura… in three days. And I didn’t know it at the time, but I was entering into an MSer’s perfect storm of a vacation: a toe injury, an undetected urinary tract infection, and a surprise fresh relapse that was not yet in full force—to, of all places, a country with more steps, more cobblestones, and more toilets lacking toilet seats than I had ever experienced. But it’s all good. Because oh boy did it give me some exciting future blog fodder!

Bottom line: Falls are going to happen with multiple sclerosis. There’s no way around it. Some of us might fall once every blue moon, others as often as a full moon (and half moon, quarter moon, sliver of a moon, new moon, ha!). Don’t let it get you down. Dust off, get up, and move on!

Originally published October 31, 2009. Edited for clarity.

Grocery Shopping with MS Meets Murphy’s Law

I’ve never liked that guy, Murphy, always showin’ up at the most inopportune of times in multiple sclerosis. Like last week, when I ventured out to grocery shop for a 10-person dinner party (one that catered to a) vegetarians and b) people allergic to onions, but that’s for another story). All seemed pretty darn smooth when I arrived at the store. I even got the chance to park next to an empty handicapped spot, which I always try to do if one is available—someone may need that extra access far more than I do. And then that dude showed up. Murphy. There was just one available scooter… and the battery was just about dead.

When I grocery shop these days I usually use one of the store’s Hoverounds. It saves the MS legs for needed work later in the afternoon and it prevents me from having to ask the staff to hunt down a chair for me if I bonk an hour into my shop. And that conversation always goes like this: “Chair? Why? I don’t think we have one.” I nod. “That’s okay, I’ll sit on the lettuce. It’s softer than the apples or potatoes.” A chair usually shows up rather quickly.

Of all days I really needed to save the legs, today was that day. I couldn’t wait and come back later—the rest of the afternoon was slated for mandatory cooking and dinner prep for the weekend. Worse, I had a big haul to get and Laura had just run out of allergy medicine at the peak of allergy season. So I came up with a plan. Using the near-dead scooter, I’d hit the pharmacist (located at the opposite end of the store from the fresh fruit and veggies) and then switch to a push cart and hustle. No prob, right? Wrong.

“Your prescription isn’t ready.” Fudge. The scooter was wheezing and I was at the wrong end of the store. So I plugged the scooter in at the pharmacy and waited. “The doctor hasn’t called us back, so we’ll page you when it’s ready.” Holy bat guano, Batman. So off I go back to the front of the store to drop off the electric slug only to get paged midway. Mother Mary Joseph Stalin. Turning around, I crept back to the pharmacy, plugged ‘er back in, and picked up the allergy meds. Could I make it back with the extra few minutes of bonus juice? Would I stall out in the middle of store, stranded? Should I cut my losses and just hit the beer aisle?

I finally made it back to the cart corral averaging 0.2 mph; I could have crawled faster. But I saved my leg gas for the main shop and I was ready to motor. And motor I did. It didn’t even bother me that they were out of cans of chicken broth—how does that happen?—and the first 48-oz box I picked up leaked broth all over me. (And for those wondering, “Dave, chicken broth has both a) chicken and b) onions,” don’t ask. The vegetarian makes an exception for broth and for some reason processed broth does not trigger the other’s onion allergy.)

So I swept down the aisles in blazing time, tossing items in the basket like Jordan raining threes. I finished, forgetting not a single item, and my legs still had ample power. Screw Murphy, I thought. I didn’t even have to pee. Oh, wait—I shouldn’t have thought that. The bathroom is on the total other end of the store. By the pharmacy. Murphy is such the a-hole.

“What are you doing back here, Mr. Bexfield?” I shooed off the smiley pharmacy staff as I focused on my destination. AND THAT DUDE WHO WAS ABOUT TO TAKE THE ONLY BATHROOM. “Dude!” He let me go first. Murphy, finally, had officially left the building.

I strolled back to the front, checked out with a gazillion Monopoly pieces (part of the store’s promotion), certain that one held the $100,000 grand prize. “It’s a million dollars, actually,” the clerk said. Double cool. And then I saw a woman my age with a family member (brother, husband?) who was in wheelchair unable to control it himself. “Are you playing Monopoly?” I asked. She was. I gave her my stack of tickets and walked out to my car. She soon followed me out… to her accessible van in that last handicapped space. Thanks, Murph, sometimes you aren’t so bad after all.