Changing “I can’t” to “I can” – determination is key

Determination is one of the best qualities to which we all can aspire. Whatever our disease, condition, or disability, we can all try to have more determination in our lives.

It is that quality that changes “I can’t” to “I can”. It is about making every effort in life.

Of course, I am not talking about anything that is beyond our individual capabilities.

We might not be able to walk far, if at all, but is there anything we can do to make life easier not only for ourselves but also those nearest and dearest to us.

If we can find ways to get up after a fall, without needing help, we have made a good start. But finding ways to stop falling is even better.

In my own case, my mobility has been increasingly affected over the years. In gradual stages, progressive multiple sclerosis has taken its toll.

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Menai Suspension Bridge, from which I abseiled in 1997.

Thirty years ago, as an adult leader in the Scouts, I was an accredited mountain walking leader, went rock climbing and enjoyed abseiling. On one occasion, for a medical charity, I abseiled from the Menai Suspension Bridge in North Wales, UK.

Twenty years ago, my difficulties in mobility had begun. Walking was a task that no longer came naturally. I was forced to think about each and every step.

Fifteen years ago, my inability to left my left leg led to a diagnosis of MS.

Ten years ago, after several falls, I started using a walking stick/cane outdoors. This minimized falls but could not prevent them. A year earlier, I had found it impossible to continue working and so tried to find ways to help move about.

Determination to be independent

First, I tried mobility scooters but these were not deal for me. You see, scooters are designed to be driven using both your hands which did not suit my left arm and hand which are so weak that I cannot even use them to eat.

While continuing to use a walking stick for short distances, up to 10 yards or so, longer distances required a wheelchair. This was the only way to avoid falls

Initially, I tried a self-propelled manual chair but soon found that I needed to have someone push me. My weak left arm/hand meant I could make great left-handed circles but going straight just wasn’t possible.

This was followed by my first electric power wheelchair. Now, this gave independence when using it, with one-handed joystick control. However, I still needed help getting it in and out of my Chrysler Voyager. My beloved Lisa still had to manhandle a folding ramp, so it wasn’t ideal. In fact, she said that she’d rather push the manual chair than fight with the ramp.

So, how could I regain some independence and not cause more work for my nearest and dearest?

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The lightweight folding electric wheelchair that I use today.

The answer was surprisingly easy. I bought one of the lightweight folding electric power wheelchairs now on the market. This I can easily get into and out of the car using just one hand giving me independence to reach anywhere that has no more than a small kerb or step to overcome.

It means that now Lisa can choose to stay in our car, while I get out to run one errand or another.

For me, determination has paid off, and continues to do so. How about you?

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

A view from the ground: Understand and cut risks of falls

I fall, you probably fall. In fact, anyone with mobility issues that include problems with balance is more than likely to fall from time to time.

fallsAnd that’s how I came to find myself sitting on the ground beside my car. My knee gave way as I was trying to transfer to the car from my wheelchair.

This happened just two days ago, after Lisa and I left a restaurant to head home. I tried and failed to get up, both by myself and with help. Then a police car pulled up and the two officers helped me to my feet.

That’s when things became a bit confused. First were communication problems as my basic Spanish language skills matched with one officer’s basic English abilities.

Anyway, after I established that alcohol was not involved, I explained that I had “esclerosis multiple” (pronounced ‘mool-ti-play’). So far, so good – but it became evident that police training does not go as far as MS. Despite my protestations, they wanted to ship me off to hospital and, so, called an ambulance.

At least the ambulance team understood MS, and quickly realized I did not wish to go to hospital. They explained the situation to the police, and said that I was ok to drive. Then we were on our way.

Overall, I felt that the whole experience may have been frustrating but I cannot fault the care from either the police or ambulance crew.

Give falls more thought

All that got me to think about last Friday (September 22) being Falls Prevention Awareness Day in the US. This is designed to encourage people with multiple sclerosis and others who are likely to fall to give more thought to why we fall.

Although the awareness day is coordinated by the National Council on Aging, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) this year presented research into MS-related falls, as well as resources to identify risk factors of falling.

This included the fact that typical MS symptoms, such as poor gait and balance, or the loss of perception of where body parts are, all contribute to your falls. These often happen at home, while you do everyday activities.

According to the NMSS, neurological symptoms are not the only factors as psychological issues are another risk area.  Further, fear of falling, overconfidence, or inactivity can also be factors.

“As MS changes over time and walking becomes more difficult, you may find that you resist accepting help,” the NMSS writes in its guide for minimizing the risk of falls.

It says: “Being able to walk confidently and independently is important, so the idea of losing that independence may be frightening. Tools and tips that can prevent future falls will help to keep you more independent rather than take your independence away… being receptive to them is half the battle.”

Another plus is that the NMSS has also developed the Free From Falls program. This contains eight modules with webinars, downloadable educational material and video-guided exercises.

These materials teach people like you and me about the various risk factors, and also offers tips and strategies to reduce the risk of falls.

I, for one, will be paying close attention.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Clinical Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

Falls – the good, the bad, and the ……

Falls are a fact of life for people with multiple sclerosis or other disability that includes mobility and balance problems. But, those of us who take the tumbles know they are not all the same.

We divide them into bad falls and good falls. So, what is a “good” fall? How can any fall be good?

Well, from personal experience, I know that some falls can be thought of as good. I will try and explain.

falls First of all, there is the matter of injury. Any fall that incurs no more than bruises and scratches has got to be thought of as nothing to worry about. I have learned to relax and roll

Injuries, though, are not the only factor. Here I can only speak with my knowledge as a person with MS. I know that people without disabilities fall sometimes, and MS is not behind all my unscheduled meetings with the floor. After all, anyone can slip or trip.

Those of us who have MS know full well what can be blamed on the disease. In my own case, muscle weakness in my left leg can lead to my left knee giving way without warning. At other times, I cannot maintain my balance or am just too tired to move or stand up any longer.

These falls are all attributed to MS as it affects me. You may have other symptoms and effects. We all know, however, that every fall is bad if it is connected to MS.

However, other unplanned descents can be totally unconnected with the disability and so are “good” falls. These can include slips, trips, misjudging distances and so on.

Not all falls can be blamed on MS

Some recent mishaps in my life have included misjudging the distance to an ottoman and only half sitting on it, ending on the floor. Another time, I turned over in bed but was too close to the edge and so found the floor again. Both of these left me completely unhurt and helpless with laughter. Neither were linked to MS.

Another risk you have to look out for is moving obstacles, namely pets. In my case, we have three cats and two are good at keeping out of my way but the eldest (19½ years) doesn’t. Indeed, she manages to get right in the way and then stop – as though daring me to get past. So far, no accidents there but I have to stay alert.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Clinical Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

MS, Combined with Flu, Had Me on the Floor Again

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MS, Combined with Flu, Had Me on the Floor Again

One thing we do know, though, is that influenza can make us feel worse. MS Society sites around the world agree the flu pushes up our temperature and can make symptoms flare up. And, for those who experience relapses, an infection like the flu can trigger one.

Having progressive MS, relapses are not part of my life, but my symptoms certainly can flare when I am hit by an infection.

And that is exactly what happened over the weekend when I finally succumbed to the same flu that my wife had been suffering from for a few days.

I suppose my two most obvious symptoms are problems with mobility and balance and these certainly were much worse at the height of infection. I fell getting out of my armchair and again in our bathroom, both times taking many minutes to get back onto my feet as my strength deserted me in my time of need. If it had not been for the physical help provided by Lisa, my loving wife, my time on the floor likely would have been much longer.

After my second fall, she insisted that I sit in our bathroom chair, which is on wheels. Although still unwell herself, insisted on pushing me between living room, bathroom and bedroom. She said her motives were a little selfish as it was easier to push me about than help me recover from another fall.

Flu jab protection?

So, if the flu can have such a bad effect, should we take advantage of the protection offered by have the annual flu jab?

Well, when I lived in the U.K., I used to follow the advice of doctors and the country’s MS Society that recommends that people with MS have a seasonal flu jab every autumn. It says: “This is before the flu season starts around November. But it’s still worth having one later than that. Carers and partners can get a flu jab too.”

But that is in the past. No more jabs for me.

Why the change? Let me assure you that it is nothing to do with efficacy of the vaccines or their general safety for most people.

Instead, it is all about their safety for me. Regular readers may recall that in October I spent time in Moscow having medical tests at the A.A. Maximov center that provides HSCT treatment, including patients with MS and other autoimmune diseases.

There is no need to go into detail of what went on, but one of the key findings was that my MS lesions are all inactive and the recommendation made by Dr. Denis Fedorenko, MD, to minimize the risk of reactivating them, was that I should have no vaccines. None at all, not even the flu jab.

I want to emphasize that this is NOT advice for you. Everyone is different. Make sure you get our own medical advice.

This article, written by me, was first published by Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

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ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

Taking the rough with the smooth

In my wheelchair on a better day.

In my wheelchair on a better day.

As everyone affected by multiple sclerosis knows, whether living with it personally or because someone close to you has it, there will be good and bad times. Some may be limited to a day; others can be much longer.

Since forsaking the cloudy skies and rain of Britain for the sunnier and drier climes of the south of Spain, albeit that it is winter here too, I have noticed significant improvements.  I have been enjoying a prolonged good spell with a drastic reduction in both the number of falls and of the amount of time seriously affected by fatigue.

Two days ago, however, it was the start of a bad time. It started with, of all things, a stomach ache but that in no way warned me of what was to come.

After watching me fall asleep in my armchair in the middle of the afternoon and then seeing me fall on the way to the bathroom, my wife Lisa decided it was time for me to go to bed and there were no protests from me. The pain was still there and fatigue had set in. And I don’t mean tiredness; fatigue is so much more than being tired.

I did try and get up later but only as far as my electric wheelchair and, even then, I soon returned to bed.

Yesterday morning, I awoke to discover my stomach ache had gone but, instead, it felt as though there was a tight band around my body – widely known as the ‘MS hug’. I spent awhile on my computer until, trying to get around indoors led to two more falls, resulting in Lisa insisting that I return to bed. Once there, I was soon oblivious to the world.

Today, Thursday, I have only got out of bed to visit the bathroom which, so far, I have managed without falling. My legs seem to be becoming mine again. I am sitting up in bed while writing this. I think that the worst of the fatigue is behind me.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll try and get out of bed again this afternoon. If I can make it from bed to armchair – on my feet without falling, that would be a major improvement. Not much to ask, is it? Just ask the uninvited guest in my life; ask my ‘friend’, multiple sclerosis.