A little bit about me…

9 09 2009

Elsewhere, I’ve been pretty open about why I’m in a wheelchair. In fact, in past blogs (back when this blog was on MySpace), it was rather well known that the wheelchair is now a part of my life. However, until now, I haven’t taken the time to explain why that is now so, or how it has affected my life.

In 2006, I was struck with what is called transverse myelitis. It’s an inflammation of the spinal fluid (aka myelin) around the lower half of my spine. The spinal cord itself is still ok, but the fluid around it had become inflamed, and lesions have since developed in that area. As a result, impulses from my brain do not reach the muscles in the lower half of my body: my legs and trunk area, and therefore, the nerves and muscles have atrophied to the point that I now have very little movement from the waist down. I can move my feet a little at the ankles, and while I can’t use my trunk to lean forward, my back muscles still work.

What brought the inflammation on? We have no way of knowing. What we do know is that it has something to do with the immune system. My best guess is that some kind of bug got me – I don’t even remember having any symptoms – and after the immune system took care of that, it kept going and went after the spinal column. It’s a very uncommon condition – 1 to 5 occurrences per million – and is related to multiple sclerosis, which thankfully, a later MRI showed I did not have.

It began as pain in my lower back, but I had no luck in finding out the cause of it, for reasons which I’ll explain another time. For now, let’s just say that I had to go to the walk-in clinic to try to figure out what was going on, and because I ended up seeing six different doctors on each of the six visits to the clinic, it was impossible to get any kind of consensus as to what was causing the pain.

I now have an idea what was going on. My back had noticed that the way I was walking had changed, and it didn’t like what was happening, so it started complaining. It eventually got to a point where I could no longer work. My line of work, at McDonald’s, required me to stand all day, and it became too painful to remain standing for any length of time.

In late June 2006, I had planned to make a quick trip to the corner store across the street. I took a step down the small set of steps outside my door, and one of my knees gave out, and down I went. I was not badly hurt – just a couple of scrapes and I’d jarred my right wrist, which was the initial point of impact when I fell. But it was an eye-opener that something needed to be done. I called a cab and had him take me to the hospital. I ended up staying at the hospital for some five months, most of it in their rehab unit, where they determined the cause of the loss of movement in my legs and worked to make me as independent as possible.

There are many times when I’m able to deal with the situation and do the best I can. Fortunately, the illness only struck the lower half of my body. I still have full use of my arms and hands, and that has gone a long way towards my being able to remain mostly independent. Essentially, the only time I need assistance is when transferring to and from the wheelchair: in and out of bed, for example. And I’ve learned what things I can handle in the kitchen, so I can still prepare my own meals.

But it has to be acknowledged that there are times when being in this wheelchair takes its toll on me, when the thought of spending all day, every day, for the rest of my life, in this wheelchair, instead of being able to get up and walk around, really gets to me. And on days like that, depression hits, often rather hard, and I end up further distancing myself from people. It even has reached a point when I’ve been unable to do my radio shows. It happens – there’s not a lot I can do about it. All I can do is ride it out the best I can until I start to feel better. It’s not easy, to be certain.

Well, that puts my situation into a nutshell. I’ve never hidden my disability from anyone. When I’m asked, I’m honest about it. There’s no value to being otherwise. This is who I am now. Hiding it does no good. That’s why I wanted to write this entry – so you have a better idea of why I am the way I am.

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