Oh, Snap! Broken Leg a “Patient” Reminder

The last week of May in 2010 was a popular seven days for breaking your leg. Professional race car driver Mike Conway broke his leg (and his back) in a spectacular crash at the Indy 500. Pro baseball player Kendry Morales of the Angels broke his leg after hitting a game-winning grand slam home run. Amidst the celebration at home plate, he jumped up and then stepped wrong and then, well, snap. So when I broke my leg in a kitchen fall nearly three years ago—in non-eye-popping, non-dramatic fashion—I knew I wasn’t alone. But I also knew… I was an idiot.

When multiple sclerosis tries to pry away some of our abilities, it’s only natural to hold on tighter. When the disease successfully robs us, even temporarily in a relapse, the push to regain what was lost can feel quest-like. The problem with quests? They take time. Heck, Odysseus, cursed by the gods, was gone for 10 years battling Cyclops and such before returning to Troy. For poor Frodo, it took three whole movies to get and then destroy that damn ring. Sir Lancelot and the Holy Grail he was looking for? Well, he’s still looking. Point is, you can’t really hurry a quest. Patience—methodical patience—needs to be embraced to get where you want to go. Don’t dwell on what you could do; focus on what you can do. And for the love of god, don’t try to do what you could do but currently can’t do (or shouldn’t do, at least safely). You might just break a leg.*
*Ah, it was only the fibula, the smallest bone in the leg. I didn’t even need a cast and it healed up completely in 6 weeks. I promptly got right back to questing!

Originally published June 4, 2010. Edited for clarity.

Life of Pee: Going to the Movies with MS

From the title alone you know where this is going and you think you know exactly what I am going to talk about. But you might not predict my latest adventure to the movie theater when I, like young Pi, was desperate for a lifeboat. And I mean this literally. Huh? Why the hell would anyone need a lifeboat in a movie theater? A real, honest-to-god lifeboat (sans tiger)? Allow me to explain.
Going to movies used to be so easy. Park a few football fields away, jog to the ticket line to make sure you beat the lollygaggers, pick up a soda so large you could swim laps in the carbonated sugar water, and then make a beeline to the perfect seat—eight rows up, dead center. Oh, life before multiple sclerosis.

So the other day, when seeing appropriately Life of Pi, I decided to start tabulating just how trying it can be to watch a movie these days at a large Cineplex, starting with the parking lot. I first calculated that the handicapped parking spaces were nearly a quarter mile from our actual movie theater, conveniently located on the far, far end of the 24-theater complex. Automatically I was guaranteed to trudge a half mile with my forearm crutches to see a flick.
Next, I skipped the soda—extra liquid and movies without a pause button are a poor combination if you have MS. As for grabbing a seat, these days I avoid too many stairs (trying to navigate lots of stairs in the dark is a major MS violation) and if the theater is crowded, that seat is usually on the edge since crawling over folks can be a challenge. But today I went up a few stairs and staked out the middle. I mean, how busy could a movie get that had been out for months? I am such the gambler. And a few minutes later I followed the cardinal rule of having this disease: pee before the movie starts.

All was going swimmingly (pun intended) until I entered the men’s restroom. These days I’m a sit-down kind of guy and two of the three stalls were occupied, including the handicapped one. No biggie, except that the one unoccupied toilet hadn’t been flushed in the last century. It was a swirl of faded fall colors—yellows like the fallen leaves of aspens and browns like the muddy trail after a fresh, chilly rain. Uh, you get the picture. I took it upon myself to be the hero that day. To do what few clearly had had the courage to do before. I flushed that toilet. (Granted, from a good distance using a forearm crutch—I mean it was pretty nasty.)

For reasons unknown, there is exactly one men’s bathroom on this wing. The nearest other bathroom is a quarter mile away roundtrip, something I wanted to avoid since the movie was going to start in 10 minutes. But I realized pretty quickly that such a trip was going to be unavoidable as the murky festival of fall lurking in the toilet bowl started cascading over the rim. And kept cascading. Holy crap, literally. The bathroom was flooding! The two poor souls in the neighboring stalls immediately propped up their legs, struggling to keep their feet aloft. They were trapped without a lifeboat. I apologized (“really sorry guys”) and ran, as fast as one can with forearm crutches, for help—and the other bathroom (after all I did still have to pee).
When I finally made it back to the theater, the previews had started. And the movie theater was packed, my wife bravely fending off potential seat suitors for the last 20 minutes. Now my path was as murky as that toilet water—up stairs and past the legs of a half dozen strangers who were most definitely not prepared for a Dave lap dance. I figured they would probably be poor tippers anyway, so I delicately gimped my way to my seat, sat down, and thought, Oh no-no-no-no, do I have to pee again? Thank goodness it was a false alarm. Ah, my Life of Pee, it’s a guaranteed Oscar contender every time I go to the movies.