I have lived with multiple sclerosis (MS) for over three decades, but only after experiencing the most horrible fall recently did I finally realize the role of fatigue and weakness in all my previous falls.
In the past, divine intervention or just plain luck has always saved me from truly hurting myself. But divine intervention is merely a concept, and one’s luck eventually runs out.
The worst fall finally happened. As I sat there in complete shock afterward, the instinct to berate myself — my usual reaction to falling — all but disappeared.
Anatomy of a Fall: How It Happened
The whole incident happened when I was, with help, trying to position my legs at the top of the stairway, which I have done at least a thousand times before. This time, however, I was beyond fatigued.
When I thought I had correctly positioned my legs, they slowly gave out. I fell backward, hitting my head on the corner of the wall. Blood was pouring out of my scalp.
The blow to my head was hard enough to leave me dazed, but I did not pass out or lose any sense of who I was or where I was. I knew exactly what had happened and that it wasn’t one of my usual falls. More than anything, all the blood scared me, particularly since the bleeding wouldn't stop.
Thank goodness my partner, David, was by my side. He soaked up as much blood as he could with toilet paper and a towel, dabbing the area with peroxide. Finally the bleeding stopped — until I came downstairs and blew my nose. Then blood started spurting out all over again.
A Swift Decision to Visit the ER Pays Off
At that point we realized we needed help. As inconvenient as all this was, we went straight to the emergency department of the local hospital with a towel tied around my face. After waiting some time, I received three staples in my head to hold the incision together.
David looked at the sizable incision and never regretted having to drive there or putting up with the wait. The emergency room was a busy place, and we were among many people waiting for attention. Although having the staples put in was painful, this had to happen, or I would have just kept bleeding.
When we finally left the hospital, I was still dazed, mostly because I couldn’t get over the fact that they actually put staples in your head! It all seems so barbaric, yet it does make sense.
The emergency room doctors did what they had to do without truly understanding what had happened to me. Once again, how could I expect anyone else to understand, when it took me a while to realize that one of my legs had collapsed at the top of the stairs. That is what caused me to fall backward.
RELATED: When to Seek, and Avoid, Emergency Care for MS
The Fall Forced Me to Recognize Weakness on My Left Side
The good part — yes there is a good part — is that I was now aware of the left-side weakness! I always make sure not to rely heavily on that side, particularly in delicate situations, like the top of the stairs. Too bad it took that accident for me to learn something constructive.
At this point, my one job in life is to not fall. I will say I have gotten a lot safer these past few months, until this most recent episode, which truly opened my eyes to understanding the weakness MS has caused in my body.
When all those previous falls happened I was confused about the cause. Now I know. I am taking my formidable foe seriously and now watch and think about everything I do — and I mean everything. I just wasn’t taking things seriously before. Please understand, I am not giving in, just being smarter.
What I’ve Learned — or Relearned — From This Fall
I’ve learned three important lessons from this incident:
- Fatigue is a real thing, so when I recognize fatigue, I need to just stop what I'm doing and either sit down or lie down. Because at this point, besides nothing working when I get fatigued, I know I lack judgment with impaired decision-making.
- I need to recognize the weakness in my body, specifically the left side arm and leg.
- I also need to recognize that one day is not the same as the day before, so I cannot forget the points I made above. Spontaneity and going with the flow are not luxuries I have.
Clearly I am up against powerful forces, so why not work with hardships rather than use my energy to try to outsmart and work against them?