Walking and Falling
Multiple Sclerosis is a funny old disease. It is different for anyone who has it in every way imaginable. It is completely unpredictable. It knows only one rule, with time it will get worse and worse. There are one or two things that are common to nearly everyone who has MS. I’m talking about walking and bladder problems.
In this post I’m going to be talking about my walking and falling problems. I’m sure some of you will say “Oh I’ve got that as well”.
“Yup, but I am quite sure your problems are different to mine or anybody else’s for that matter”.
Looking back I can see my MS started as early as 1972 but I was not diagnosed until 1995 with double vision. The consultant who diagnosed me saw the beginnings of mobility problems but did not share the secret with me. His report to the GP mentioned ‘Ataxia’ but never really talked it over with me. In fact I was blissfully ignorant of this aspect of my MS until about 2000.
I can remember going on a 16 mile dog walk in 1999. No face plants, no tripping up as I walked over rough ground and no stumbles. Within five years things were definitely changing. The length of my dog walks was now shorter every time and it was not long before I had to give them up altogether. Was this MS or me getting a bit older?
Now I was seeing a different consultant twice a year but he did not offer me any useful help or advice with my MS. The Internet was not very helpful either. Occasionally I tripped up quite unexpectedly and I realised it was something very small sticking out of the ground Someone at the local MS therapy centre said “It sounds as if you have foot drop” but did not offer any advice except to suggest buying a walking stick.
By now I could not put 1 foot immediately in front of the other and walk in a straight line and neither could I run. I was very aware of the foot drop in my left foot but I don’t think anyone else really noticed. I bought a walking stick and told other people I had a sporting injury. At about the same time the wife spotted something called a Musmate. A clever chap designed it for his wife who had walking problems like mine.
Basically it’s a band that goes round the foot and is connected by a strong piece of elastic to a pair of braces. The elastic is strong enough to lift the foot clear of the ground when you take a step. Fantastic, drop foot problem solved and I convinced other people it was just a fashion accessory. In about 2010 further problems developed.
By now my balance was definitely quite squiffy. I had to use all my concentration to carry a cup of coffee or a plate of food. Things were definitely deteriorating but hey I was still employed. I was working abroad so at airports I had to use special assistance wheelchairs because everything involves a huge amount of walking.
In 2012 I was medically retired or should I say medical retirement took me. It was a life changing event. I only realised this several years later with the benefit of hindsight. My mobility and balance seemed to take a turn for the worse. Now I was totally dependent upon my Rollator and mobility scooter to move around.
In September 2015 I managed to walk, stumble and totter a mile for charity. It took me over an hour and I used my four wheeled walker. There were times when I thought I would not make it. At the end my thighs ached, the feeling of relief when I could sit down was indescribable. The fatigue this time was totally different to the fatigue from playing a game of squash as a teenager.
My mobility requirements were now very different. I had already dislocated my shoulder twice in falls and had an operation to rebuild my rotator cuff. By now I could no longer live on my own. Even very simple tasks like hanging up the washing or changing a lightbulb were out of the question. I could not use a spade to dig a hole in the garden.
Something called fatigue started to kick to make these simple tasks even harder. I have always enjoyed cooking but suddenly this became a job too far. Some really simple jobs in the kitchen that I took completely for granted turned into big tasks. Loading and unloading the dishwasher or cooking an evening meal for two called for preparation and consideration that previously had never needed any thought.
Suddenly realising that I needed my wife as a carer to look after me came as an almighty shock to the system. She has to carry stuff up and down stairs for me because I can’t. She irons my clothes for me and then hangs up in the wardrobe. She has now become the gardener. Nonetheless I can still do things she can’t or won’t do.
Multiple sclerosis is very slowly depriving me of my independence. The rate of change to my body has been slow and definitely irreversible. On the other hand I have learnt to fall over with tremendous and unbelievable grace and elegance. MS is a game changer but I have adapted my new life to live with MS.
I was diagnosed with MS in the last century and medical retirement was thrown at me in January 2012, it was a shocking event. Since that momentous day I have built the website www.aid4disabled.com , give talks to nursing students on Long-Term Conditions and I have my finger in all sorts of pies. I get around using a funky mobility scooter because I cannot walk unaided, cooking when I have the energy and talking to the plants in my garden.
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