An Incident I’ll Never Forget

It’s a moment I have never forgotten, and the emotion of it all now impacts me more than I ever knew it would. While working for a little extra income to supplement my awesome, yet low-paying job at Southwest Airlines, it was just another day of folding clothes and straightening hangers on the racks of my Dallas, Texas area Ann Taylor Loft when my store manager approached me in a state of bewilderment. She was half cracking up, half angry, as she gestured across the store toward a rack of clothing. I immediately noticed the wet puddle on the floor beneath some Capri pants and coordinating tank tops and naturally assumed someone had spilled their drink. My manager grabbed hold of my forearm and squeezed as she audibly whispered, “that lady just peed on the floor!” Her gaze pointed to a visibly frail woman, maybe in her mid-40’s. Her left arm was draped with hanging garments, her right hand grasped the handle of her cane.

My initial reaction was a flood of emotions including shock and discomfort and, I admit, I was a little bit grossed out. But it wasn’t funny, and I certainly wasn’t angry. Of course, a woman did not stand in the middle of an Ann Taylor Loft store and void her bladder on purpose. Right? It was clear that my manager had never seen anything like it before and not only wanted me to clean up the mess, but she also wanted me to ask the woman to leave the store. I took a moment to survey the situation, and I realized the woman who had the accident was now in the fitting room with several items of clothing. She also had a friend with her, so I decided to approach the friend first. I found her just outside the fitting room and told her that I needed to tell her something that was a little uncomfortable, but I knew I would want to know this if it were me; I told her we were pretty sure her friend had urinated on the floor, and we just wanted to make sure she was aware. The friend’s eyes became glossy and she said, “I’m so sorry. She probably has no idea, I’ll tell her. She has MS. It has gotten really bad. Thank you for telling me. I’m so, so sorry.”

I remember entering the fitting room and bagging up all of the clothes which we now had to consider a loss, as there was a chance there was urine on the clothing and of course it wasn’t sanitary to sell them.

Looking back, I remember so clearly the sadness I felt for that poor woman who didn’t even know she had lost control of her bodily function- in public no less.  And today, it’s equally moving to know that I have a common bond with that woman. We are grouped in the same, dreary, gray column: MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS.

No, I have not lost control of my bodily functions…(well okay, I have, but only twice in the past several years and both times I was laughing really, really hard. And I knew it was happening, and that happens to everyone right??)…I am merely 3 months in to my diagnosis and over two months after a five day solumedrol treatment and starting a Tecfidera regimen, I feel almost completely normal again.

Why didn’t I think it was hilarious and also feel angry that some lady peed on our floor and caused us to take a loss on our sales? I didn’t understand MS any more than the next person back then. I just can’t help but wonder if, aside from the fact that I tend to just be overly sensitive to other people, almost to my own detriment, maybe there was a perceptive piece of my brain that recognized that woman as “my sister”…a part of me that recognized her struggles and pain as something I might one day know in my own life.

I am not a member of a personal/physical MS support group—but I feel a connection to people all over the world now, all dealing with a reality that is fresh and new to me. I feel their support, and I know they feel mine. I have no way of knowing what ten years from now will look like. But, as for that woman who had an incident at my store over ten years ago, I hope she and I will still be in the same column in another ten years, maybe less. A new column with a beautiful, colorful label in bright, bold letters: CURED.

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