Thursday, 17 October 2013

Putting On Pants

When I visited the ALS Clinic recently one of the neurologists was checking out my muscle tone. After rating my upper body at 100% normal, a measurement I am willing to accept even though I know I have lost some upper body muscle and strength, primarily due to inactivity and being trapped in this chair, the neurologist went on to test my legs. My assessment? "My legs are dead." After checking them I asked what he thought and he sad "Well, it's what you were looking for, isn't it?"

I've thought about that statement a lot these last few weeks. There is no doubt that legs which were once as strong as tree trunks and arms that were lithe as pythons have diminished. There is no doubt that legs that were once capable of climbing masts and mountains, legs that could heave massive loads and pull heavy weights, are now useless. But dead?

To quote Miracle Max, my legs are "only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive." I can still wiggle my toes and with the right assistance and bracing I can still rise to a full stand. I can still adjust my legs in bed to some small degree and even though my toes are no longer strong enough to kick off overheating covers, I can still gain a bit of ground by hauling them up manually and using gravity to my benefit when readjusting.

Nonetheless, my legs are still mostly dead. When adjusting them while sleeping or sitting, I use my arms to hoist them into position, pushing and pulling and squaring them away as needed. While I am in my wheelchair, I use the leg braces to hold them in place so they don't flop sideways. I use a belt while driving to keep them together so my hips don't become uncomfortable, as there is no muscle to move them even from side to side.

I can see where this is heading too. Now, when I stand to pull up my pants in the mornings, I can no longer retain that standing position without holding on to something. I pull myself vertical using a combination of my wheelchair and the M-rail on my bed, bracing myself on the dresser top once I get there. Once up, I am wobbly, very unsteady. Pulling up my pants is challenging; I only have one hand to work with and pants cannot defy gravity just as I cannot.

Through this whole "standing" process, I slowly slump, my legs being unable to provide sufficient muscle even for the lightest of balancing activities. Yet here I am, still standing. With a fair bit of concentration I can let go of the M-rail and "free stand" for a couple of moments, usually just barely long enough to finalize the positioning of my pant tops and do up the button and zipper. Sometimes I don't make it and am compelled to do this job from a sitting position.

Even with all this, I notice, week after week, the slight declines, the ever decreasing ability. For example I no longer stand to put on my underwear; I do it while seated now. This is because I cannot bend over to pick them up, and of course there is absolutely no leg lifting for me at all. Eventually I will lose all ability to stand. Then I will just learn to do things differently, and keep going. Then perhaps I will say "completely dead".

1 comment:

  1. I know it is coming but hope that the ravages of this disease are slow in coming too. My love to you as there is nothing else o offer.