I Am Living with ALS

by Richard A. McBride on Wed, 2013-12-11 05:00

Richard McBride

It's been a year now, a year since the neurologist uttered the three letters to me that changed my life forever. A year ago today, I was diagnosed with ALS. I could still walk then. I didn't need the wheelchairs they insisted on using in the hospital. I did need my cane and would still need it for a few weeks. After that, the wheelchair.

It was the first event of the day that really got me going. The night before, I had been visited by the on-call neurologist. It was daytime now, and a horde of doctors descended upon me before I had finished the meager hospital breakfast, even before Dion brought me a Timmies. There were four of them, all deeply interested in my situation. Beware when doctors arrive in a herd; it spells trouble. After inspecting my legs carefully, plus asking me about a million questions, the departmental head of neurology, along with the resident neurologist, plus a couple of other interns, informed me that I needed more tests.

The day itself was a blur of tests and machines. While still in the ER Ambulatory Chairs, I was taken for an MRI, a full body MRI that took over 90 minutes, during which time I was firmly admonished to refrain from any motion lest the MRI image turn out fuzzy. My head refused with the expected fuzzy outcome. They did my head twice just to be sure.

After the MRI, I finally managed to get my Timmies, cold as it was by then. The nurse came and took about a liter of blood in about eight different vials. Then I was transferred upstairs to the neurology ward. There was a certain irony in my room placement; from the window I could see the roof of my apartment, a place I definitely would rather have been. On the plus side, Dion smuggled in some scotch for me, so at least I could have my evening sip before bed. When they eventually found out, the hospital staff was not impressed.

I don't remember much of the afternoon. There were more tests, the kind where they shove long needles into your body to see if your nerves work. I remember those; they hurt. Mostly there was waiting time, waiting to see what the results would be.

Then, while David and Elizabeth were visiting me after their work day, the resident neurologist came in to talk. She said we had to talk about my diagnosis; I said David and Elizabeth could stay. They were an incredible support to me, not just that day but for many days since. After a short preamble about my symptoms, she said, "We think you have ALS."

On hearing the verdict, David slumped back into the wall and Elizabeth sat there, silent. I went into what I call my "business mode." The emotions would come, and they surely have come. But at that time, I wanted the facts and figures.

"How sure are you?"

"About 90 percent. We have to do a few more tests to get more certain, but we are pretty sure."

"How often are you wrong?"

"Not very often. Less than 1 percent of the time. We haven't been wrong in a long time."

"How long do I have?"

"Probably about 36 months."

A lot more was asked and said, but that's the heart of the matter. I have ALS. It's been 12 months since that day. I am still living, still living with ALS. Nobody knows the number of their days, not even me, but I am fairly sure it will be longer than expected and shorter than hoped for. Here I am, living with ALS.

The blog was posted originally on Nov. 20, 2013.

About the Author

Born in Victoria, British Columbia, far too long ago to make a difference here, Richard McBride was, up until recently, a lifelong resident of the Vancouver and Fraser Valley region of Canada's most western province. McBride has had the joy of a very diverse career ranging from his first career as a stockbroker to training consultant and technology consultant to project manager.

Major changes in his life before his diagnosis of ALS meant his relocation to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It was there that he received the diagnosis in November 2012. McBride continues to share his life and experiences both through his blog and through a tremendous group of friends, support specialists, and most importantly, with his four children and two grandchildren, with one on the way.

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