by The Cyclist
Last night my 14-hour paramedic shift was filled with rain, car accidents, and drug addicts. I was cold, wet, hungry, and ready to go home when the dispatcher called for “a simple hospital transfer”. My wife is a stay-at-home Mom and we’ve two kids… so off I went.
The hospital nurse told us we’d transfer a young mother, just diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), very scared, with no family besides her two kids and a sick mother. I found “Jane” looking like she’d just finished crying.
I touched her hand, told her I’d take care of her; the other hospital would help her feel better. She looked better, said she was scared, hadn’t been in a hospital before, had no one to talk to.
I said I understood — but obviously I work out and am fit, so how could I?
I asked what had happened. A month before her arm felt weak and the doctor diagnosed Carpel Tunnel. Then her leg got weak and numb, and after a MRI and lumbar puncture, they’d diagnosed MS. This morning, she’d been really numb and gone to the Emergency Room. Jane was sure her life was over.
I said I understood.
She wanted to talk with someone who understood what she was going through yet was living well with MS. Her neurosurgeon had warned support groups were too depressing for newly diagnosed patients.
Jane needed to talk so I rode in back and listened. She was so scared to hear she had MS she threw up all day. (That brought back memories!) She knew her athletic days were over.
After taking her to her room, I sent my partner down and finished paperwork.
Jane thanked me, saying I really seemed to care. “Have you seen anyone with MS who’s OK?” Yes. “Someone still walking?” Yes. “Someone in your family?”
Me. I have MS.
Jane stared in astonishment and relief. I said her life was most assuredly not over, it was just the beginning of a life different than planned. She thanked me profusely, and I agreed to return after dropping off the ambulance. I called my wife to let her know, and drove back.
I told Jane I’ve had MS over five years, diagnosed just 6 months ago, January 2003, after which I puked for two weeks. Then I realized my life was just beginning — MS is NOT a death sentence.
You’re not your diagnosis. It’s something you deal with.
Having MS you can be happy and active; it’s important to stay moving and enjoy your body to its fullest extent. Most people with MS live very fulfilled and active lives. I told her about the wonderful community available online. I’m not happy about having MS but it’s made me a better person, and I’m grateful for that.
“I finally feel my future can be bright,” Jane said. I assured her it could be.
As I left the dark quiet hospital at 2 a.m., for the first time I was actually thankful that I have MS.