Tuesday, I took the Covenant Woods’ bus to the Columbus Clinic to see Dr. Miller, my primary care guy. That’s what they call general practitioners these days, isn’t it? I thought he would discover that I was running a temperature. Before the good doctor made his appearance, however, a nurse took my vital signs. Everything was in order, including my 97.9 temperature. The discomfort I’ve been feeling must be a MSer’s sensitivity to heat.
The Internet is brimming with sites offering advice to those of us with Multiple Sclerosis. An exhortation to make sure the AC is working can be found in every one of them. The air conditioning in my apartment is working well, albeit a little harder than the last two summers, when 75 seemed to be the ideal temperature. This year I’ve been dropping the thermostat to 73 during the afternoons, and keeping it at 74 the rest of the day. Nonetheless, any exertion, no matter how small, seems to get me sweating.
Anyway, when the nurse left, Dr. Miller came in. He asked how things were going. I told him I thought I had a bladder infection. He asked why. “Because it hurts when I go.” He told me to go pee in a cup. I told him I’d need a catheter; I can’t pee on demand. The truth is the old bladder has performance anxiety. If I’m in the apartment reading or watching the TV and the urge comes over me, I head to the head and everything works fine. Well, not always. There are times when I suddenly realize I’m going to be late for this or that if I don’t hurry. My bladder doesn’t hurry; in fact it hardly works at all when I need it to get it done now.
Rather than trust me with one of the clinic’s catheters or give me a cup to fill at my leisure at home, the doctor opted to tap my bladder himself. He hoisted me on to the examination table, did the usual examining things and called for a nurse. When she arrived, Dr. Miller told her to get him a pediatric catheter. Pediatric catheter? I am, admittedly, modestly endowed. But a pediatric catheter? Pul-leeeze.
My pride was salvaged when the kiddie catheter failed to produce a single drop of urine. “Your well must be dry, but maybe we should try a regular catheter – just in case,” the doc said. The big-boy catheter reached all the way to my bladder. The doc took a look at what the tube had yielded and cast doubt on my diagnoses. “This urine looks pretty clear,” he said before sending it to the lab and me to the waiting room.
Twenty minutes later, he called me back to the examining room. “I guess you know your body,” he said. “You do have a bladder infection.” He said he would send a prescription to the Clinic pharmacy. At the pharmacy, I told the cashier I was there to pick a prescription Dr. Miller sent down for me. She went to see if it had been received, and when she got back she told me, “They’re still counting it.” So I waited. I’m not sure for how long, but grandson Hayden, not yet four, could have counted to fourteen faster than that pharmacist did.
With meds in hand, I headed toward the closest exit, fumbling all the way as I tried to get the phone out of my pants pocket in order to call Wes and tell him I was ready to go. Before I retrieved the phone, however, I spotted the Covenant Woods’ bus heading my way. Wow, Wes is clairvoyant, I thought. Alas, it was just a coincidence. The bus pulled up, and Mary got off and headed to her appointment. I got on and was on my way back to Covenant Woods.
Thursday afternoon, I hopped in the shower. OK, I didn’t hop in, but I managed to get in without much difficulty, showered without difficulty and got out of the shower without difficulty. Towel in hand, I stood with the commode in front of me and the wheelchair behind me, drying the places I couldn’t dry while sitting on the shower chair. When I was sort of dry enough and ready to get back in the wheelchair, my feet wouldn’t move.
It was as if someone had sneaked in and covered the bathroom floor with glue, probably because my singing in the shower disturbed them. My singing has disturbed people for years. I was once a member of the Ruthfred Lutheran Church children’s choir and vaguely recall a time or two when Pastor Dennis asked me to just move my lips.
So there I was in the bathroom, naked and my feet stuck to the floor. To get to the wheelchair I had to take a step or two backwards. Try as I might, I couldn’t make my feet take that step. Plan B was to pivot as best I could, sit on the toilet seat, curse lustily and hope I could lean forward enough grab on to the wheelchair to brace myself when I was ready to get back up. But I couldn’t manage to get on the toilet seat. The right foot finally moved just enough to get me twisted into a position I would have had difficulty getting out of if I had had all my faculties.
My legs were weakening, and they’re not all that strong to begin with, and my arms had had just about enough of trying to hold the rest of me up. Rather than wait for my limbs to give out, I lowered myself onto the floor as gently as I could. My phone was within easy reach; it always goes to the bathroom with me. “At least put on your underpants,” the angel at one ear said. “Hell, no one will notice. Remember the pediatric catheter?” the devil at the other ear said.
Heeding the words of the angel, I opted for modesty and quickly realized it was going to require some hard work. I grabbed my underwear, which was on the hamper. Like my bladder, my legs are at their worst when I need them most. My left leg was stiff as a board, and the right leg was nearly as bad. I couldn’t lean forward far enough to get my foot in a leg hole, and the neither leg would let me bend it enough to bring it closer. Finally, the right leg relented enough to make it possible get the underwear started. Fortunately, the walking cane I now use to pull things to me was in the bathroom, not by the kitchen sink where it usually is. With it I was able to get the appropriate leg hole to open up over my left foot and fall into place. Then I used the cane to pull the underpants up to my thighs. By lifting one buttock and pulling, then lifting the other buttock and pulling, and repeating the process five or six times, I got the underwear up to where it is supposed to be worn.
I made the call to the front desk, and moments later, Steve, one of the maintenance men, was at my door. He came in, slithered around the wheelchair to get into the bathroom and hoisted me back on to the chair. Pat, one of the aide’s, came in to make sure I all right. Then James, another of the maintenance men, appeared. With his help, I got my socks, pants and shirt on. James had one of my shoes in hand. But I wanted to lie down for a while, and he helped me get on the bed.
Al is telling a far more exciting version of this tale. Yesterday, Stacie, one of the servers, came up to me and said, “How come you didn’t say anything about falling? Did you hurt yourself? Are you OK?” I told her about getting into an untenable position and lowering myself to the floor in order to avoid falling. “But Al said . . .”
One day, a week or so ago, I was able to pull myself away from all the excitement here at Covenant Woods and use my time constructively surfing the net. On huffingtonpost.com I found a quiz: “Can You Catch These Common Grammar Mistakes.” I wasn’t sure I could, but there wasn’t anyone around to embarrass myself in front of. So, what the heck, I took the quiz.
The results: “15 out of 18 – This isn't your first grammar quiz, is it? You're a natural. It's nice to see someone with a fine appreciation for the English language. Keep on using words correctly.”
The plethora of pedagogues who struggled without success to teach me the fine points of English grammar will no doubt blame my high score on declining standards.