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It Starts

June 13, 2000

At the beginning of last November, (1999) I was walking just fine. Then one day, about the middle of the month, I got out of my van to walk across the parking lot and I kept tripping. It felt like my right leg was suddenly just a tiny bit longer than it had been minutes before, so that when I picked my foot up to move it forward, I wouldn't raise it quite high enough, and the toe would catch on the asphalt. I thought to myself, "that's weird! Hope it goes away soon," and went into work. Needless to say, it didn't go away, and by the beginning of December, I had to consciously lift my right leg with every step. I mentioned this to my son Bri, when we were out Christmas shopping.

     ME: There's something that feels wrong with my foot, I
         feel like I'm walking weird!
     BRIAN: I don't see anything wrong with the way you're
         walking. You look normal to me, as normal as you ever
         get anyway.
     ME: Thanks Bri.

By Christmas people could tell that I was walking weird. I had a distinct limp. I wanted to walk around shouting "Hey Marshal Dillon, wait up!" but I knew that the rest of the world was far too young to catch the reference. When asked about the limp I always said: "I don't know, I think I slept on it wrong or something."

But I knew it was more than that, I just wasn't ready to think about what. By New Years eve, I was using a cane around the house. My holiday season had hummed with eager anticipation of Y2K closing down the entire world, I just hadn't realized that the Y2K meltdown was going to be personal rather than global.

By the middle of January, I was using the cane at work, too. (For a description of my work see WHO THE HELL IS LUTHER) I went to my local Doc who didn't say, "Don't worry about it! You just have a little splinter, let me take it out and it'll go right away!" which was what I'd been hoping for. Instead he told me to see a neurologist. So I went to the one he recommended.

NOTE: Whenever a doctor recommends another doctor to you, find out if your Doc has ever even met the Doc he's recommending. If he hasn't, find one on your own by asking around. Find someone who's actually gone to someone that they like.

Anyway, I went to see Dr. Y, who my GP recommended, but had never met. Dr. Y turned out to be a Japanese American who had learned his patient relation skills from watching Toshiro Mifune in old Samurai movies. He did the usual neuro tests.

     Dr. Y: Stan' on right leg! NO! more! try harder!
     ME: That's as long as I can!
     Dr. Y: (Staring at me like a gym teacher who thinks you're
          faking it.) Hrrm, Try ozzer leg now!
     ME: Okay
     Dr. Y: (Pulling out a spiked wheel on a shiny stainless
          steel handle.) Now I run this over foot, you tell me if you
          feel it.
     ME: Ow!
     Dr. Y You feel?
     ME: Yes!
     Dr. Y: Okay, now try ozzer foot.
     ME: Ow!
     Dr. Y: Can feel difference? (Runs the spikes up and down
          the soles of both feet.) Feel difference?
     ME: Ahh, I don't think so.
     Dr. Y: You don' think so? Hrrm (runs it several times
          again, much harder) Now you feel difference?
     ME: Ow! Ow! Yeah, I think so!
     Dr. Y: What difference?
     ME: I think it hurts more on my left foot.
     Dr. Y: Hurngah! Now we try arms.
     ME: (sotto voice) Oh shit!

(Let me state here and now that I have nothing against Japanese people or Asians in general. In fact both my kids are Korean- Americans. I just wanted to give you an accurate picture of what it was like, not to denigrate any races. Ever.)

So anyway, Dr. Y held tuning forks against me, and had me spin my arms in various directions and touch my nose with my eyes shut. All of this time I'm sitting on a cold leatherette table in my underwear.

     Dr. Y: Don' let arm move!

Taking a firm grip on my wrist, he performed the first move of a karate body flip.
My arm moved. I wondered if he was going to do some jujitsu next.

     Dr. Y: Get on clothes now.

The long and short of it was that Dr. Y thought I had something but he didn't want to say what, so he ordered a lot of tests. I spent hours under an MRI, which is a lot like lying on your back, with the U.S.S. Saratoga suspended about an inch above your nose.

NOTE: When having an MRI, shut your eyes before they roll you underneath, and keep telling yourself that there's nothing in front of your face. Do NOT open your eyes until they have slid you completely back out. If you do, because you think the session is over, they'll just adjust your head a little and then slide you back. Then, no matter what you tell yourself, you'll Know that there's a World War II battleship suspended an inch above your nose.

While you're underneath, The MRI Tech will talk to you through a speaker which is so loud you nearly piss yourself. This is done on purpose, just to get you ready for the sounds to come. The MRI in action makes a wide range of sounds, from the noise of a truck transmission in very low gradually shearing off gear teeth, to beeps, thuds, and warbles. Many of the sounds are repeated rhythmically for long periods of time. Eventually they begin to sound like words. The one I remember best sounded like: "You're GONNA GONNA GONNA die. You're GONNA GONNA GONNA die." Over and over for about two months. (actually probably only 7 minutes or so.) Then the tech's voice says: "All right, that's the first one, only 5 more to go. The next one will take about 8 minutes. And remember, Don't move a muscle!"

NOTE: I found that if you know any meditation techniques, being under an MRI is a good place to practice them. Also, (and this I didn't try,) when they ask you if you're claustrophobic, tell them, "YES!" and maybe they'll give you some valium or something. In addition, to those readers with tattoos, or thinking about tattoos: there are metallic particles in many tattoo inks, and they burn like hell under an MRI. I don't have any tattoos, but I have this from a reliable source.

When you finally hear the tech's voice blast through the speaker: "Okay, that's it!" You're so relieved that you vow that you will kiss her once you're out no matter what she looks like.

NOTE: Do not follow this impulse!

After the MRI came some blood work. We'll get back to this later.

Then came more MRI's, "You're GONNA GONNA GONNA die! You're GONNA GONNA GONNA die!" and then a weird test where they stick wires all over your head and face and then have you stare at a computer screen which shows you odd flashing patterns like an old Pong game with the color balance set all wrong. This is not painful, but it is rather annoying.

Then there's another test where you get the wires pasted into your hair and
they stick you with little metallic rods.

NOTE: Don't let em see you wince. They like that and will only poke harder. As far as I know, this goes for any painful test.

Then, back for a third set of MRI's.

"We must've forgot to do this the first time, but don't worry, it won't cost you anything!" Yeah right. It costs another half hour of: "You're GONNA GONNA GONNA die! You're GONNA GONNA GONNA die!"

Finally, all the tests came back, They called to tell me that, but when I asked what the results were, they said, "You have to ask Dr. Y." When I asked to talk to Dr.Y, they told me, "You'll have to make an appointment". His facility is apparently staffed with women who were found to be too nasty to become school librarians or Drive through people at McDonalds.

I finally quit Dr. Y, not because of him - I think he probably knew what he was doing - but because I couldn't stand another minute with his office staff, all of whom I'm now certain had large dill pickles shoved up their asses.

But anyway, after waiting a week and a half, I was finally allowed to see Dr. Y. He told me: "I don' know what you got! Could be something, could not be something, we got to get you spinal tap."

He also put me on a medicine named Baclofen which is a muscle relaxant, because now both legs were beginning to act up in weird and wondeful ways, like refusing to go anywhere near where I mentally told them to. Baclofen's benefits include the fact that it takes a week or two before you can feel any difference, it makes me sleepy all the time, and interferes with your ability to have an orgasm. IMHO, (In my humble opinion), they should just give you some Quaaludes, which would be much more effective. Unfortunately, a pharmacist buddy says that they no longer make Quaaludes because it was just too much fun, and all pleasurable drugs have to be against the law.

So now it's time for a spinal tap. I go to a local hospital, strip to my undies, put on a disposable paper gown and lay on my side on a cold metal table. The doctor comes in and he's Asian too! Now he makes small talk and explains what's going to happen, and the job he does on my lumbar puncture is magnificent! The needle for the anesthetic hurts more than the spinal tap! In fact, I can hardly even tell when I get the puncture. I have to ask if it's over and he tells me it has been for 3 minutes! I highly recommend this guy, but unfortunately I didn't get his name. He's also the first person to actually tell me that what they're looking for is Multiple Sclerosis. I'd figured that out a while back, but it's nice to have it confirmed. I made a video about a woman with MS once, and although it's bad, at least you get to live for a while.

I go home and have to stay prone for 24 hours. This is not fun, although you are allowed up to pee. I find myself looking forward to my urination even more fondly than when I was riding home in the back seat of a buddies car after 10 or 12 beers. And that's saying a lot!

The next day, and the day after, it feels as though I'd been shot in the back with a civil war cannon. Probably a marine or shipboard cannon which fired 3 inch balls. Every time one of the dogs jumps on the bed to greet me, I try and kill her. They never get the message.

Finally, after he gets the results from the spinal tap, and I wait a week for him to look at them, Dr. Y's office gives me an imperial summons;

     OFFICE PERSON: "This is just to remind you that you
           have an appointment with Dr. Y at one PM tomorrow."
     ME: This is the first I heard of it!
     OFFICE PERSON: Oh. Well if you want to reschedule,
           I have an opening the week after next...
     ME: I'll be there!

So I have to, once again, grovel before the general manager and explain that I need to take the middle of the day off. He says okay, but try and give him more than one day's notice next time. I tell him I'll try.

At Dr. Y's office.
     ME: So, does it look like MS?
     Dr. Y: (giving me an irritated glance) I don' know what
          you got! Could be MS or could not be MS, we got
          to talk to specialist.

So he gives me the name of an MS specialist and tells me to call and make an appointment. I do this as soon as I get home. They can fit me in, they say, in June, 4 months away! I try to call Dr. Y, but his office staff won't let me talk to him. I leave him a harshly phrased message. He calls back 3 hours later with the name of another specialist. He doesn't have the number, but is sure that directory assistance will have it. After playing the telephone run around game for an hour, I actually get the new specialist's scheduler on the phone. He can see me in May. I take it. That's only 3 months away.


  And so it begins. This site is being created by Luther Conant for purposes of communication and the expansion of human beings and their bases of knowlege. It will always be under construction, so don't wait for it to be finished. If you would like to, please, write to Luther at Luther@lutheroutloud.com. Tell him what you think, what you know, how you feel, or what made you feel like writing.