Between visiting Dr G and Dr Sh, I needed to do my research and also go for a lumbar puncture. I reacted badly to the steroids and as far as I can tell, they didn't do me any good.
After diagnosis, you enter a whole new world. Support networks are everywhere. The MS Society and the MS Trust sent me reams of free information to get my head round. I joined the MS Society and spent an hour talking to the local rep over the phone. The web is awash with discussion forums. I was assigned an MS nurse - H - who was to become my contact with the hospital as well as a source of advice and information. She came to visit me at home. I also had a meeting with one of the Occupational Health Nurses at work and the Disabled Workers' Group in my workplace also corresponded with useful and supportive advice.
With the information at my fingertips I was able to piece together incidents from my past and build up a picture of my MS history. The most interesting find was a diary entry from mid-2004 that documented "everything that has gone wrong with my health since starting work at (my employer)" This modest list was as follows:
- vertigo. My local practice nurse told me this was some sort of postural hypotension because it occured when bending or lying in certain positions. I had a mental image of my aorta being squeezed, every time it flared up.
- eye problems. I had flashes and flickering lights in my vision and pain when looking round. I went to my GP, an optician and eventually my local hospital as an out-patient over this and was told that I had symptoms consistent with a detached retina, but apart from that , they were stumped. I can picture the present-day Dave, in a white coat, leaning over the opthalmologist's shoulder: "Hmmmm.... how about optic neuritis??"
- a four week headache that wouldn't shift with painkillers
- pins and needles on one side of my head.
Evidence of further MS activity crops up in other diaries. My 2007 diary, for instance, documented a nasty spell of vertigo and showed evidence of fatigue where end-of-the-day diary entries spouted random gibberish and spiralled off into unintelligible squiggles.
The lumbar puncture wasn't too bad. The nurse performing the procedure reminded me of someone I knew, so that put me at ease. The local anaesthetic being administered was the most painful bit. I felt the pop of the needle entering my spinal column and I was surprised to see that my cerebro-spinal fluid was completely colourless. Other than that I didn't feel any discomfort. Everything had been explained in great detail. I remarked that I had pulled a muscle round lumbar number 4, six years previously and the nurse commented that it was still rock hard and impossible to get the needle through. She did physio for one of Sheffield's top sports teams, so I guess she knew what she was talking about.
I was one of the 10% of puncturees who had bad headaches for the next few days and on the third day afterwards (my third day in my new job), I vomited.
Seeing Dr Sh was a world of difference from Dr G. He popped in to yet another session of symptom observation with students in tow, listened to his registrar (who amusingly became all flustered) and declared that I had obviously had active Relapsing Remitting MS, that I had probably had a few relapses that year already and that we should put me on some disease modifying drugs as soon as humanly possible.
I had one of those amusing moments like the good vibrations in the MRI. Dr Sh, his registrar (Dr T) and two students wanted to see how my eyes were moving, so while I followed the path of Dr Sh's pen, I was aware of four pairs of eyes leaning forward and concentrating closely on mine.
One of the marvellous things about a neurological diagnosis is that you get to see the MRI of your brain. It is an odd experience and, probably because I was in a vulnerable spot emotionally, quite moving seeing it nestling snug inside the thin skull wall, also... dare I say it as an agnostic... an almost spiritual experience.
part 6 >