Thursday, June 8, 2017

Spasticity, and Other Inconsequential Ramblings of a Condemned Man

Maybe it was a 70s term, but I never hear kids calling each other ‘Spaz’ anymore; I don’t hear it on TV either. Of course, the decline in usage of a derogatory term is never a bad thing. I must confess, I’m guilty. I still chuckle when I hear the word.
[Hee Hee]
See? The word still makes me laugh, even if I’m poking fun at myself.
“Hi, my name is Kevin, and I am a Spaz.”
[Hee Hee]
To word my predicament in a more politically correct fashion, I suffer from varying degrees of spasticity directly contributed to my Multiple Sclerosis. This symptom has plagued me since the onset of my disease in 1999, taking several different forms. As with many of my issues, unfortunately, this is worsening.

First, it was cool.
I was in command of an Air Cavalry Troop, station in Korea when I was first diagnosed. I was immediately grounded, never to fly helicopters again, but I remained in country for nine months. My Troop Mission was maintenance and repair of the Apache helicopters assigned to our Squadron, a job I was still able to perform.
There was nothing like being a Troop Commander at Camp Eagle (Wonju, Korea). With 135 soldiers under my command, I was a big fish in a really little pond. Our tiny camp held the airfield, hangar, barracks, and a bar. There wasn’t much do in Korea beyond working and drinking; I was quite proficient in both! As the commander, I often had the chance to drink with my soldiers. Nothing says, “I am the Commander, the Big Cheese, the HMFIC,” quite like sitting in a bar, decked out in your flight suit and Cav Stetson, when your hand spasms, shattering the highball glass you’re holding, blood running down your hand, and you show no reaction/no emotion (I ain’t got time to bleed).
With all my other problems, that one wasn’t too bad.

Later on, it was an annoyance.
Muscle spasms, mostly in my calves, plagued me for years. My MS symptoms were generally mild at the time, so not much focus was put on treating this as part of my ongoing fight with multiple sclerosis. Everyone had recommendations on what I ‘should’ do to treat my leg cramps.

“You should eat more bananas. Are you eating bananas? If you are, you not eating enough bananas!”
- Outside Voice: “Stop saying banana!”
- Inside Voice: “Banana, Banana, Banana.”

“You should drink tonic water. That will get rid of your cramps. Drink lots of tonic water.”
- BTW: I hate tonic water

I was staying at the parents’ house of a friend. I woke up in the middle of the night with a ‘What the hell is that?’ reaction one night. There was a bar of soap in the bed, underneath the mattress cover.
“That’ll get rid of cramps in your legs.”
- Just no.

Now, it is crippling.
I wake up in the morning with such severe spasms and my foot and ankle, I can’t do a thing. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to walk on your ankle?
My leg braces are sometimes ineffective. My L300, designed to compensate for damaged nerves and weakened muscles causing foot drop, cannot compensate for the strength of the opposite muscle having spasticity. My utility AFO is just too flimsy to overcome the deformation caused by involuntary spasms. The MOAB is great, if I can actually straighten my leg sufficiently to get my foot in the brace.
Spasms in my left hand will ball my fingers up into a fist to the point it is immobile; a weak, underpowered, dead stump with a fist-ball hanging from the end.
Spasms in my bladder can have unintended consequences, ranging from ‘Can’t pee’ to ‘Please stop peeing’.
Spasms out-of-nowhere in my chest, neck, arms, and abdomen can make me look like, well, a Spaz!
[Hee Hee]


Refers to feelings of stiffness and a wide range of involuntary muscle spasms; can occur in any limb, but it is much more common in the legs.

The fight is not over and it won’t be over until a cure is found.
It will never stop…nor will we
It will never quit…nor will we
This is why we fight!

Never Stop… Never Quit…®
Kevin Byrne
Portland, OR

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