I can't believe how time flies and that it has been 6 years on the 21st of January since I became a paraplegic at the age of 44. So much has happened in that period of time that I would never have imagined in a million years I'd be experiencing.
I remember so clearly the attack starting on the 18th of January 2010. I was sitting at my desk at work and I could feel my toe starting to go numb, then my foot, lower leg, thigh and bottom, it was slowly creeping up my leg as the day went on. My back also started to spasm and it was terribly painful. I wasn't sure if it was an attack and didn't go to the hospital as this was happening frequently back in those days, and usually a week off work and rest would settle it. I made an appointment for the following day to see the physiotherapist to see of they could work on my back to stop the spasms, and drove home feeling very uncomfortable.
On the 19th of January 2010 when I woke up nothing had changed. I guess in my mind I was denying what was going on as well as checking in to see how bad it was, hence no hospital trip which is what I should have done. I went off to the physiotherapist, had the treatment and came home. It didn't work and the spasms got more intense. I just lay on my bed all day trying to rest as they were so painful and uncomfortable. After many years of pain prior to this with this disease, I'd learnt to try to block the pain and built up a good tolerance which helped, slightly.
I woke up on Wednesday January 20th 2010 and felt no better. I had sold my house and was staying at Mum's while I looked for land so I could build another home. When I got up the back spasms had gone (phew) however my leg was still numb. I noticed during the day that I was starting to lose power in that leg and felt as though when I was walking I was dragging it slightly behind me. Somehow in my head I was questioning my judgement and thinking to myself that I was imagining it. However by night time I was hanging on to the stair banister and walls to get to the toilet. That night I had to ask Mum to actually help me off the loo. Looking back I should have been in hospital on the 18th but hey, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
On Thursday the 21st January 2010 I woke up at 5.30am to go to the toilet and found that I couldn't sit up! I called out to Mum who came through and together with great difficulty we managed to get me upright. The next shock was that my leg wouldn't work and I couldn't stand up! Not to mention that my bladder was so full and felt like exploding. Clearly the message hadn't gone from my bladder to my brain to wake me during the night. We tried several times to get me up and then admitted that something was seriously wrong and it was a major attack. Looking back at the events now as I write about it, and thinking about it over the years, it really was obvious that on day 1 I should have gone to hospital, however when you in the moment that clarity doesn't seem to exist. At that time I had been diagnosed with MS not this disease NMO so I had been educating myself on MS symptoms not NMO's which can be quite different.
We decided it was hospital time and called an ambulance. They came fairly quickly and we discovered pretty soon that the next step was going to be a challenge. My bedroom was on the next floor and their stretcher's not able to get up stairs so the question was "how to get me downstairs"? I think there were 3 ambulance people so between them and myself we worked out a very unusual way of getting me down the stairs. I clearly remember laughing as I thought it was funny, and it reminded me of how I used to move as a baby before I walked, which wasn't until I was 2 years old! I forgot to mention that only 1 leg wasn't working, my other leg was ok although it didn't have the power to stand on it. My upper body was fine and strong, it was just from my waist down that was weird. With the the ambulance guys help I got off the bed and onto the floor in my bedroom and started to move towards the stairs on my bottom, pushing myself forward with my arms and my other leg. I then bounced down the stairs (all 16 of them) on my bottom with the dodgy leg first and the rest afterwards. When I got to the bottom the 3 ambos' helped me onto the stretcher, into the ambulance and off I went to hospital.
My neurologist was away at the time so I went to Royal Melbourne Public as that's where I always went previously when I'd had attacks, and for all my IV steroid treatments. I had been so often that I even remembered my hospital patient number. Once in the ER department one of the neurologists that had seen me on rounds before came to have a chat and started the process of admitting me. At this stage I still hadn't gone to the toilet and was in incredible pain. I was visualising me bladder looking like one of those puffer fishes! They eventually put a catheter in and it turned out that I was carrying 750 mls! OMG! By now I was starting to feel concerned but I feel that when something unusual is happening, don't worry about that, just look forward and for a solution. That was the 4 day saga and as of the 21th ofJanuary 2010 I stopped walking.
I have to say I do feel very sad as well while writing this as the disease has really shrunk my world and opportunities which can make me very depressed for days on end. However I feel lucky as I've learnt that since getting ill that I'm strong and tough, and my nature in dealing with everything in life is positive (most of the time). I always think that if you can't change it, then look for ways to deal with it.
So HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to me, and I mean HAPPY as I came out the other end and have managed to survive the past 6 years, even though they have been very difficult and continue to be so on a daily basis. I now have a version of quality of life that enables me to be almost independent and live my life.
A very big THANKS to my Mum who has been my angel through all of this time and to this day.
In a wheelchair permanently since early 2010 due to a disease called NMO. I am loving getting out and about in my wheels. My blogs capture my journey.