The left side of my body has always been the side which my MS has attacked the hardest, I have no idea why, but when just over 5 years ago one morning I woke, put on my dressing gown and headed for the kitchen, in a strange way, what happened didn’t really surprise me. In the dark, I put my left hand out in front of me, palm forward, to push the kitchen door open. It wasn’t my palm that touched the wood but my knuckles. My left hand wasn’t working. With the light on I stared at it and tried to make it do something, anything, it didn’t. I pinched and prodded at it and felt nearly nothing.
After a couple of days with no improvement I went to my doctor, who confirmed that there was no nerve reaction below my elbow. There was nothing that could be done and it was a matter of waiting to see if it would recover or not. As it was Christmas I had a few days before I had to deal with my wheelchair and my job, so I waited and tried to find ways round every day problems.
How do you style your hair with one hand, you don’t. You can hold the hair dryer in your left hand but you don’t know where that hair dryer is until you smell burning hair. Suddenly the piece of hair you have wrapped round a brush becomes exactly that, as it is no longer attached to your head. Opening jars, making coffee, doing housework, all suddenly became impossible, one hand typing, for a touch typist is hellish. Christmas passed, New Year passed and I had to face the office with all the yet unrealised hurdles.
For a longtime I had kept my wheelchair in the office by the main entrance as the struggle of getting it to and from home, was just silly, pointless as well, as I didn’t use the chair in the house. Due to the now ended 2 weeks holiday, I had the chair at home. That morning, just as our long standing routine had already established, I unlocked my chair from it’s overnight position at the bottom of the stairs and enlisted the help of the taxi driver to get it in and out of the taxi at the other end of the 15 minute journey. Opening up the office as I always did, started to show the issues of coping with a manual wheelchair with only one hand, well one and a half. I could place my left hand on the wheel and by putting a figure into the spokes, slowly and painfully manage the flat areas. The slopes to the call center was impossible, I couldn’t manage it without help, as I was the only person there I had to get out of the chair and push it up the slope, this wasn’t going to work. I had to work from home while I sorted out the problem. I thought a brace would help so I bought one and found it made a big difference at home and after a week I ventured back to work.
That was going to be my last day in the office. My work was slower, not really a problem as I can program and with a little work on that side I was already pull it back to a more normal speed. No, work wasn’t the problem. My speed round the office wasn’t a problem as it was still faster in the chair than it would have been on my feet, walking had other issues that had caused the arrival of my chair, no speed wasn’t the problem. Nor was it the slow short emails I now sent, I had explained to all that I wasn’t being curt, it was for now very difficult to actually type. The problem, was ironically something that was built to ensure compliance with the law on disability access. It was the slopes that replaced what would have once been steps, they where as big an obstacle as if they had just built normal steps.
The brace holding my wrist made moving far easier but that lack of sensation hadn’t changed. I had caught my thumb a couple of times and the one that sent me home was spectacular. I noticed it when I tried to move my hand back to take another shove at push myself up that slope, my hand was caught on something. It was wedged between the tire and the brake, I was glad I couldn’t feel it, as I could see blood starting to flow, once released it was clear that blood was coming from the areas that skin was peeled back from. It was the kind of injury that I knew made me a hazard in the work place, how many other things were there that I could mangle my hand in or on.
This was the start of the trail that lead to my being housebound. A hand. You wouldn’t think that loosing the use of one hand could so radically change a life, but rolled in with everything else it did.
For the last few months I have been growing increasingly aware that the recovery of my hand has started to go backwards and this time it is taking much of my left side with it. There is increasing pain in both my arm and leg, my ribs and neck are also showing new levels of problems. I am sat here right now, with pain from just below my left ear right to my finger tips and through my left side down to my toes. The second that I reached to turn of the alarm I felt it, all of it. There is no point me calling a doctor, all they seem to be able to do is give the one thing I don’t need, sympathy. So I will push on with life in the hope that it will change, there is a time limit that I put on everything like this, one week. No improvement then I will scream for more morphine, I don’t like to, as this is another slope that I know in time will defeat me, this one though I do have a little control over.