A defining moment

Let me start my explaining that I have two very distinct sides to my personality.

On the one hand I am deeply compassionate and patient, I would sacrifice myself in the service of others in a heartbeat and often have. I work as an ICU nurse and have spent many 12+ hour shifts holding hands, saving lives, and responding to crisis situations in times of disaster. I have slept on the floor in the hospital during blizzards when other nurses were unable to get out of their driveways so that no patient would be neglected. I have toasted with cranberry juice at midnight on new years eve with my 85 year old patient who could not leave his hospital bed. I threw a surprise 5th birthday party for my cancer patient’s daughter because he was heartbroken that he was unable to get out of the hospital in time to celebrate. I held the hand of a patient who was in agonizing pain until she fell asleep for the first time in days, then stood motionless by her side for 4 hours, afraid to remove my hand and wake her. I have had the distinct honor of being a nurse, and experiencing all that the profession entails.

On the other hand I am a passionately type A go getter. I have always been ambitious, working full time as an EMT to get through nursing school, rowing on the varsity crew team, doing crossfit until the night before I was hospitalized. In fact, when the ER doctor asked if I had been experiencing weakness I told him that my deadlift had gone down 20lbs the night before which baffled me…he told me that did not count! A year and a half ago I began my graduate degree in Nurse Anesthesia, an elite program that accepts only 20 people a year. So I guess it goes without saying that MS was not in the plan.

I first noticed symptoms around the holidays last year. I was running and my right foot fell asleep, only it never woke up again. Crossfit involves olympic style weightlifting, I assumed I had pinched a nerve and didn’t worry about it too much. Then gradually over the next couple of weeks both legs and my right arm also went numb. My boyfriend made me promise to make a doctor’s appointment at the end of the week (I was too busy with work and school to possibly get the attention I needed!). In the meantime I continued my normal routine…school, crossfit, repeat.

January 8th was an exciting day for me, it was my first time giving anesthesia in the operating room. Sure I wasn’t feeling so great, but this wasn’t the type of day that you could call out sick from, plus I had been awaiting this opportunity for the last year and a half! I didn’t sleep all night because of the nerves, I knew I was in trouble as I left for the hospital at 4am but I still pushed on. When I was prepping the OR for the day of surgeries ahead I noticed I was unable to draw up medications into a syringe with my right hand. I was dizzy, my mind was foggy, my vision was spotty. Still I continued, this wasn’t an opportunity afforded to many and weakness was not an option. Then came the incontinence. It was the most mortifying thing that has ever happened to me, but I firmly believe that my subconscious knew that was literally the only thing that would make me stop being so stubborn and get some help….now!

So then comes the familiar part, one week becoming a patient in the hospital where I worked. IV steroids, MRIs, spinal taps, blood work, a different diagnosis every day. On January 25th, 2013 I was diagnosed with MS. It was more of a relief then anything, I was emotionally tired of not knowing what was happening. I was prepared to know and I desperately needed to put a name to my symptoms so that I could start forming my plan of attack (I warned you, type A).

On January 27th my wonderful, supportive, amazing boyfriend (fiance!) got down on one knee and promised to never leave my side.

On June 5th I took an exam to become a Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Specialist, and am now working towards my Nurse Practitioner degree. It is my dream to work with MS patients, to extend an empathetic hand and make a difference to such an amazing group of people.

I won’t go as far as to say this diagnosis has been a good thing, but it has been a defining moment. I am 26 years old and I plan on living more years with MS than I have lived without it. The tone I set for the years to come is completely up to me, and I’m in it for the long haul.

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