Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cane, now able

No one wants to take an unwanted companion along on a long voyage but MS was coming along, whether Ian and Vicki wanted it to, or not.
So, it was best to work MS into what little plan we had for this trip. And sometimes, luck plays a large part in the planning.
In Vicki’s case, Lady Luck reared her head just over a year ago when a chance encounter at a Montana motel’s complimentary breakfast brought a device called a WalkAide into our lives. The woman enthusiastically sang the praises of a similar device she had found in the U.S., and put hers on her leg to illustrate just how important it was. This woman, whose name Vicki never did learn, had limped badly in that distinctive MS way into the room and when she put the device on her leg, she got up and walked away, straight as an arrow.
Vicki and Ian were driving back from a Winnipeg wedding, and the heat was doing its usual damage for Vicki. She’d already been using a cane for the better part of a year and with the added heat, was thinking the long-hoped-for trip around Canada and the U.S. was plainly no longer possible. The way things were in August 2009, both Ian and Vicki felt it would simply be too difficult to manage the trip we have enjoyed so much.
Weeks later, Vicki found Island Orthotics in Victoria sold the WalkAide, which through computer and electronic magic, compensates for the foot drop that plagues many MS patients. Since then, there has been no cane and she walks where she wants, when she wants.
As soon as Vicki and Ian knew the WalkAide was working, the trip was being planned.
Initial thoughts of the big ramble came after a too-young friend died over two years ago, when we realized we’d reached an age where we should think about making some of our dreams materialize. At that point, we bought our trailer because we knew one thing was certain with Vicki’s MS and travel. She has to have her medication, a form of beta-interferon, and it must be refrigerated. It seems silly but the trailer grew around a small refrigerator, which started the trip with five months of that prescription safely tucked away.
The fridge was nearly half-filled with Vicki’s drugs alone. There is always the fear the fridge might fail so a 12-volt cooler, that can work off the truck’s electrical system, was purchased just in case.
Vicki injects her drugs once a week, on Friday nights. That means Saturday often can be a less-than-ideal day for her as the drug takes affect. She rarely plans to do anything important on a Saturday because it may or may not happen.
On a Saturday, Vicki spent six hours traipsing up and down the hills and stairs of Quebec City, quite possibly the least MS-friendly city there is.
Yes, she was tired at the end of the day, but not ridiculously so. Yes, her WalkAide was firmly strapped to her right leg, contributing to every step. No, there was no cane helping her walk. Just over a year ago, she would have told you a day like that was not possible. And she would have been right.
MS is still an unwelcome companion. It makes plans tentative. Since spontaneity was one of the goals of this trip, that’s less of an issue. We may have thought we were going to travel 500 kilometres one day, but at the first sign of any discomfort in the passenger seat, Ian was looking for a campground. Some of those 500 kilometres may have passed rapidly on the back of Vicki’s eyelids as naps could be frequent. Sometimes there were more stops made so legs could be stretched out with a walk to alleviate some cramping before we were back in the truck. Or the day may have started later than we’d anticipated since a long sleep was needed.
But we made our trip.

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