Once more—the Mini-Marathon® is on the horizon, and tis is my personal account of why the Mini® is important to me. This year will be my fourteenth consecutive. I walk—do not run—the Mini®. In 1994, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. By the second of nine days in the hospital, I completely had lost use of my legs. So one can see why I might adopt a goal of completion of the Mini®.
I awoke bright and early on what was supposed to be my last day in the hospital. I was fully dressed and waiting at 7 a.m. The neuro did not arrive until 6 p.m. I should have checked out AMA—against medical advice. His advice had not proven all that good. He still maintained "we know very little about MS" as Sarah and I researched more.
A little bit should be said about Multiple Sclerosis. I alluded to it in an earlier blog, but this is what we had learned, and what I would learn in the future. Genetically I was pre-disposed for this crap. I had the gene for Epstein-Barr. That had made me vulnerable to mononucleosis. A month after high school I had it so bad I was in the hospital. My white blood cell count was so high, they thought I had leukemia. During debate nationals, Freshman year at DePauw, I was hit again. Mono had a weird effect on specific T-cells in my body. T-cells are lymphocytes—particular white blood cells in a person’s immune system. Mono had spun them in such a way that, almost 18 years after my last bout with mono, and when I was hit by a bunch of stress, the specific T-cells—not all the T-cells—rebelled. Rather, they turned paranoid and thought my central nervous system ("CNS") was an alien intrusion of my body. They attacked the myelin sheath—the fatty coating of the CNS; the common analogy is myelin is to the CNS what insulation is to electrical wire. Where the myelin was attacked and breached, my CNS shorted out. That explained why initially I could not walk and why I still had problems with my bladder. That was the part of my spine at which the T-cells had attacked.
I am not a medical doctor. I have a juris doctorate. This is not competent medical advice—only what I have learned anecdotally. One should consult one’s personal physician (but not the person who diagnosed me; he was an idiot) before engaging in any course of addressing medical issues. (That is what in law is called a disclaimer.) However, if one holds concerns about acquiring MS (because that person or members of her or his family has had mono), one course of prevention, according to what I have read, is to maintain one’s tetanus shots as current and take plenty of Vitamin D. Those two things do not constitute a guarantee against MS, but, from what I have read, they help.
MS has a wide range of symptoms and manifests itself in different ways in different people. It is a very person disease. Some people lose their vision. Others have problems with upper-body. There also are different types of MS. I had the most common and, from what I could tell, least onerous: remitting-relapsing.
When finally 6 p.m. arrived, the neuro (who still was such a son of a bitch he would not acknowledge Sarah’s presence in the room) entered the room, took a perfunctory look at me, and signed off on my release. He said I was lucky that the onset of my symptoms had been so dramatic because that onset had made the MS easy to diagnose. (A few days later I read that, because of the ongoing nature of MS symptoms, in 1994 dollars an MS patient meant $250K over the career of a neurologist.) Finally—after lying, fully clothed on that bed all day and after nine days—I was released. Sarah was set to wheel the chair in which I sat down to the place where a friend awaited in his car.
The nurses wanted to know if I wanted to take with me all the flowers people had sent. I smiled, thanked them, and said no. In general, flowers remind me of funerals. These specific flowers would have reminded me of the last nine days.
We got home. Max and Moe, our cats, at first did not recognize me. I’m sure I was engulfed in, what were to their feline noses, strange smells. They sniffed, and edged way in uncertainty, as Sarah ordered the pizza. The Noble Roman’s® deep-dish sausage pizza I had longed for since having been put on prednisone was in its way. I was home. I could watch color TV. The cats began to understand who I was.
Now all I had to do was deal with life.