Before I discuss what led me to my awful bee sting, I'd like to ask a question. Everyone likes multiple choice, right?
How is multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosed?
A. MRI Scan of the brain and spinal cord
B. Spinal Tap/Lumbar Puncture
C. EEG or Other Evoked Potential Test
D. Specific Symptoms
E. All of the Above
*******QUES JEOPARDY MUSIC*******
The Answer: ????? You'll have to continue reading to find out, haha!
It was October 6, 2011. I had been home for almost a week since my ambulance ride and I was trying my hardest to come to terms with the fact that I might actually have a disease.
MALFUNCTION OF THE BODY
No matter what term I chose to use, it meant that something was wrong with me. I no longer felt normal and it seemed like there was nothing that I could do about it. My mother stayed home for a week to nurse me back to health. I went through a series of tests that lasted for about two weeks. If there is one thing in this world that gives me joy, it is SLEEP. My mother didn't let me get a wink of it. She woke me up at 9am everyday and told me that she wouldn't let me sleep all day just because I was sick. If there was one thing that I hated at that time, it was YOGURT. My doctor ordered my mother to feed it to me everyday. I began to think that it might come out of my nostrils. (Lol) Let's just say that I was not really enjoying my time off from school.
One day, while I was laying in the living room avoiding the yogurt cup that my mom had placed next to me, I began to watch an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. It's one of my favorite shows so I've seen almost every episode, including the episode that I was watching. In the episode, Jill Scott played the role of an evil sister who was guilty of abusing her quadriplegic sister. The sister could not speak nor could she use any of her limbs. ALL THAT SHE COULD DO WAS BLINK TO COMMUNICATE. What disease did this to her? Just take a wild guess. When I realized that she had MS, I couldn't stop my tears. I never noticed this the first time that I watched the episode. My little sister walked over and saw me staring at the TV. She started laughing, assuming that I was being my normal, dramatic self. She had no idea that I was crying because I thought that that would be me soon. Sitting in a wheelchair, completely dependent on others. USELESS. My mother ran over when she noticed why I was crying and assured me that my situation would not be the same. I didn't believe her. Until this day, the image of that actress remains in my mind. Mainly because, in the episode, she was a talented, world-renowned opera singer who was completely paralyzed by MS. Out of nowhere. Before MS, she was PERFECTLY FINE, just like me.
The next day, I was scheduled for a spinal tap, also known as a lumbar puncture. During this procedure, doctor's extract cerebrospinal fluid from your spinal cord by puncturing your lower back area. They would examine the fluid to look for evidence of specific white blood cells in my nervous system. I was told that, once they numbed the area, the extraction would feel like a bee sting. Here's the problem. I had spent 21 years avoiding bees so I had no idea what that felt like. I figured that it wouldn't be too bad but boy, was I wrong?
We rushed into Greater Baltimore Medical Center on the morning of October 7th. Thanks to my father and his CHRONIC lateness, we almost missed my appointment. My mother, anxious and angry, drove from Laurel to Towson so fast that I'm still shocked that we didn't get pulled over by the police. They prepped me for the short procedure, gave me some more bee sting lingo and then it was time. It was definitely not your normal bee sting. I felt like I had been stung by a 50 pound bee on steroids! My entire mid-section was in pain within minutes. The pain from this "so-called bee sting" would last for the next several days. Afterwards, I was taken to a hospital room to wait for the doctor's results. After arguing about what to watch for several minutes, my mother and I, against my dad's wishes, became completely absorbed in an episode of Say Yes To The Dress. Before we knew it the doctor was back. He told me that I had almost the exact percentage of white blood cells in my spine that are characteristic of a patient with MS. CLUE #1
Soon, I was well enough to return to campus, however I did not return to class for another week. When I arrived, my mother and I went to visit my boss at the daycare to thank her for her help. Not only did she call the ambulance for me after I collapsed in her office but she also told me exactly who to alert for student medical emergencies. She was an older woman, in her early 60s, and she walked very slow and rarely wore anything but sneakers. I figured it was because we were working with children. It turned out that there was another reason why she assisted so much with my emergency. It was not only because I was her employee but because she had MS. THE WHOLE TIME. She wore sneakers all the time because those were the only shoes that her feet could tolerate. She walked very slowly because after years of relapses, that was her only option. My jaw dropped as she told us how seeing me collapse in her office gave her flashbacks of how she collapsed on a sidewalk while on a family trip in her 20s. THE DIFFERENCE: She wasn't able to get back up because she couldn't feel her legs. To say that my mother and I were stunned is an understatement. Other than the Law and Order episode, she was my first example of MS. A real person with this disease. CLUE #2
Suddenly, I started to feel like I was in quick sand. It was as if I was surrounded by MS. I was being drowned by it. However, I still hoped desperately that I didn't have it. There was still a chance. I had an EEG and another MRI scheduled for later that week. After the spinal tap and my horrible symptoms from the weeks prior, these two tests were all that the doctors needed to make a diagnosis. DING, DING, DING! If you answered "All of the Above" for the multiple choice question at the beginning of this post, you are CORRECT! There isn't a single test that can be performed to determine whether or not a patient has multiple sclerosis. Doctors must utilize MRI scans, spinal taps and various evoked potential tests to reach a diagnosis. They also cannot make an official diagnosis unless a patient exhibits symptoms characteristic of MS. Because MS affects the nervous system, symptoms can literally be ANYTHING. In my case, it caused slurred speech, vertigo (dizziness), fatigue, lack of coordination, extreme numbness and partial loss of control of my right hand. These were all pretty typical for someone with MS. In short, these last two tests were my last hope. The last two things that could save me from this awful diagnosis. If they came out good, then I was good.
On Friday, October 14, 2011, exactly two weeks after I collapsed in the Towson University Daycare Center, I completed a more thorough MRI and an EEG. I had only been in my apartment for about an hour after the exams, when I received a frantic phone call from my neurologist, Dr. Carter. I knew from the urgency and panic in her tone that she did not have good news for me.
What did my doctor say? Find out in my next post!
STAY TUNED AND STAY FEARLESS