Monday, January 8, 2018

Sick, With MS

I’m sick, with multiple sclerosis. The comma is intentional. I have MS and I have a cold. Typing is no fun, sitting up is no fun, and trying to be funny is no fun. Fortunately, according to Laura, I don’t have to try to be funny. I just wake up that way with a cowlick. (An aside, when I was younger I used to warn my haircutter that I had colic, which puzzled the hell out of them when they started to cut this teenager’s hair. But that’s how my grandma pronounced “cowlick,” and I didn’t know any better.)

The problem with getting sick when you have MS is that it gets the immune system revving quickly into redline territory. The flu? Let’s put that into the Fight Club category. The first rule: you don’t talk about it. Hell, these days I can’t even think about it. When I got the flu shot a few months ago—which apparently is only 10 percent effective this season—I could not move for six hours (kinda scary) and was down for nearly a day. The real flu? We’re talking ambulance, ER, and a weeklong hospital stay. So let’s not talk about that, shall we?

For me, temperature is everything. My body freaks out like that young kid who discovered that Darth Vader was Luke’s father. Or that baby who lost it over a monkey toy. Lost. It. So the other day, when I felt my cold coming on and my muscles starting to stiffen, I began to, well, FREAK OUT. So I got on the horn asap with primary care’s nurse. This is basically how it went.

Me: My wife is sick and I think I might be getting sick. And I have MS. My body is starting to rebel. 
Nurse: Okay, describe your symptoms. 
Me: I have a slight cough and my temperature went up from 97 to 98.6 degrees.
Nurse: Go on. 
Me: No, that’s all. (Muffled cough.) A cough, like that. No phlegm or anything, just a cough. 
Nurse: Well, I can’t triage you, as these symptoms, well, I can’t even input them into my system. A mild cough and normal temperature fall out of that range, sir.

With  a bonkers flu season, masks should be mandatory.
As I was talking to the nurse, I realized what an idiot I sounded like. I certainly was going to be a topic of conversation at Happy Hour that night. All I could do was wait for the hammer to fall. Or the Dave to fall. Just a degree and a half rise in body temperature—probably unnoticeable in most humans—meant I needed Laura’s help to get off the couch, the bed, the toilet. A comfort height toilet with grab bars, no less! We brought in my wheelchair from the garage, unboxed the bedside commode I purchased last year for just such an occasion (oh joy), and waited. One more tick up in temperature and I’d be joking with the EMTs as they lugged my lifeless body into the awaiting ambulance. And by lifeless, I mean rigor mortis. My spasticity already was raging so badly my legs took huge amounts of effort to bend. If my temp went over 100 degrees, I might be mistaken for a piece a plywood, a potentially disastrous combination if I was living in Florida during hurricane preparations. But I suppose getting boarded over a window might distract me from my illness, a bonus.

Technically squawking (not chirping) cranes.
Six days after I started writing this blog (do the time-lapse, fast forward thing in your head), thankfully, things have simmered down. When I checked my temperature yesterday morning it was a pleasant 96.8, the birds were chirping, and a light exercise session with cardio and stretching was in store. Despite temperatures peaking at a blistering 99.3 degrees, I never resorted to the portable potty, which I thought at the time would make Laura happy. But in retrospect, that stubbornness was a hollow victory. Two hard falls early on meant using my wheelchair full time, and now I plan to see the doc to make sure I didn’t mess up my knee (I’m optimistic I didn’t, as there is no swelling or pain).

We all hate getting sick. But getting sick with an autoimmune disease is a different beast. This is how I handled it. Better than piss-poor, but definitely not that well. How do you all cope? Any survival tricks? Post them below! (But please, remember the Fight Club rule and avoid using the three-letter F word. Just saying you were “sick” is fine.)