by Brad Hendricks
My story of HSP is not so different from many others. As a child, I was a "klutz", and had weak ankles. I never could ice skate or roller skate, and avoided moving backwards, as I would fall over. In my teens, I did play handball, racquetball, and volleyball, but nearly every round I would fall
into the wall, or onto the ground. Running backwards was a disaster. As I have, over the years, learned how to fall with no or minimal damage to my
body, my falling over often injured my volleyball teammates more than I. Eventually, I had to give that up.
I never knew my biologic father, but did find out, after his death of heart problems, that he had some sort of neurologic problem. For years, I noticed my worsening symptoms, which got even worse if I drank alcohol, but just wasn’t inclined to find out the cause of the problem. Looking back, I now know I was afraid of the truth, but was much too macho to even admit the possibility.
As I entered my thirties, I become more and more aware of "The Problem". In my 40’s, I started to become embarrassed and self-conscious of my instability. My wife finally encouraged me to seek medical help.
In 2000, I was diagnosed with one of the myriad forms of FSP. Diagnosis was a long and confusing diagnoses made by eliminated other possibilities- MS, Parkinson’s, ALS, etc. After a couple of years of taking oral Baclofen and enduring the side effects (sleepiness, sluggishness, mental dullness), my neurologist suggested the Medtronic intrathecal pump, which was implanted in August, 2002.
Mine has been a success story. The drowsiness disappeared, and my performance at work showed an immediate improvement. After a period of adjustment to find just the right dosage rate, I came to 60 mcg/day. As the disease progresses, I found it necessary to increase the dosage every other refill.
Currently, I am at 80 mcg/day and will increase it to 84 next refill. A pain management doctor administers my pump, and I visit my neurologist just twice a year. Except in my home or at the office, where there are walls and furniture to hold on to, I use a cane in all my daily activities. I am able to continue to fully perform my job duties, though I do tire more easily.
Fortunately, my employer and co-workers are superbly helpful at any time. Also, fortunately, I can delegate some work that I find too difficult. I quickly learned my limitations. I visit the gym 3-4 times a week, before work. I find that exercise early in the morning "sets the tone" for the rest of the day. I stop whatever I am doing 3-4 times a day to stretch my arms, legs, neck and hips. Because I am afraid of pulling out the catheter in my spine, I limit any stretches or exercises that involve a twisting motion.
I try to get out to walk my dog each day, or push my wife, who has severe arthritis, in her wheelchair. Walking is the ultimate exercise to improve breathing and to keep muscles in shape, so important to help avoid falling and hurting myself. I still fall occasionally, crash into walls, and cannot lift my feet enough to clear a garden hose.
Throw rugs are generally verboten at my house. The fear of falling is with me every minute, and I have found myself having to slow down and consider carefully everything I do, even each footstep. This is not as hard as it sounds, as now it is purely habitual.
I have long since stopped asking "why me?", and revel in the ways that my handicap brings out the best in other people. I have "met" many wonderful people, both in my day to day life, and on the HSP Listserv. I never tire of hearing how others deal with their personal challenges. They are inspiring and educational.
My HSP has brought out in me the kinder, sympathetic, better listener. My faith allows me to truthfully thank God for giving me this "handicap" that I consider to be, a minor inconvenience. I know that HSP is unlikely to shorten my lifespan, and although it does make my life more difficult, I have been happy to adapt, and find myself looking forward to each day to find how I can be a source of encouragement to others.
Saturday, September 8th, 2012
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