10 August 2009

What I learned at the Neurologist

Mom had an appointment at the neurologist's office the other day and I went along for moral support and, possibly, practical assistance.

Mom has been living with Multiple Sclerosis for the past twenty years. An auto-immune disorder, MS is a particularly vicious foe which attacks the nervous system of the body, destroying the myelin sheath which covers nerves - effectively cutting the phone cord in the house of the body, like the villain in a thriller. Only MS isn't all that thrilling.

Mom has chronic progressive MS*, and suffers from spasticity and muscle loss. She hasn't walked at all in nearly ten years, her vision is affected, and her cognition is somewhat impaired. She can't write legibly very often and cannot remember things long enough to tell them to me if I'm not standing in front of her when they occur to her, which means that when she does remember, she tells me things over and over.** I know quite a few people with MS and Mom has it the worst of all of them. She now lives in a "skilled nursing facility" which wasn't how she intended to spend her retirement years.

So, anyway, one of the staff where she lives noticed that Mom hadn't seen her neurologist in the last five years and suggested an appointment. The appointment was duly made and I met her there and we saw the neurologist. He asked some questions, checked her muscle strength in her arms ("Push against my hand. Uh-huh.") and her coordination ("Touch my finger. Now touch your nose. Now touch my finger. Uh-huh."), and then sat down to talk to us.

What he told us I essentially regard as good news. My biggest fear about Mom has been that she would get worse and worse and eventually be in a lot of discomfort all the time. But the doctor told us that if we could see her the nerves coming off of her spinal cord, we wouldn't see any active lesions, just areas where the nerve had withered. Mom has stabilized. In other words, he said, she is a paraplegic, and could be compared to someone who had been hurt in a riding accident as Christopher Reeve was, rather than to someone with, say a slowing progressing cancer, such as Elizabeth Edwards has. The flood has been and gone; Mom won't be living in the middle of a river with the water getting ever higher.

Which is good news for appropriate values of good news.

After the appointment, we went to Baja Fresh for lunch and I learned that while Mom zips around the nursing home in her electric wheel chair at speed, she is much more sedate on the sidewalks of Wheaton. And that when she crosses the street at less than a mile an hour, the kindly drivers wait for her very patiently. Thank you, Kindly Drivers!

A very educational trip. If one is supposed to learn one new thing every day, I'm up two.

*The other kind is relapsing/remitting where the patient has good days and bad days. Mom generally has bad days.

**Of course, I tell people things over and over and I don't have MS. Maybe it's a mother-daughter thing.


Anonymous said...

Leta, I had no idea we shared that aspect of life! My mom had the same version, only substantially worse than yours, apparently. She died in 1978 at the age of 43, totally incapacitated by MS. Of course, back in the 60s and 70s they treated the disease with cortisone shots, and the research has improved dramatically since then. I'm glad to hear your mom has stabilized!

Leta said...

43? I am so sorry - that's awful.

Yes, the reseach is making the lives of people with MS better and Mom gets very good care where she lives.