It was the coldest part of the year when I was diagnosed; the second week of January with bitter winds and snow staying on the ground. I was immediately admitted to the hospital for IV steroids.( If I have to do it again, I'll ask to be treated as an outpatient.) It was 10 o'clock at night before I was settled into a room and started on the drugs.
The steroids they give you are quite amazing but they can have some wicked side effects, like sleeplessness and hunger. I ended up roaming the hospital neuro ward at 2 in the morning, wide awake and hungry. One of the nurses showed me where their kitchen was on the floor and told me if I felt like some toast or tea at night to just come in and help myself. It was like being in Cape Breton visiting relatives.
It was after 3 before I got to sleep that first night and I was awake again at 6...just in time for the nurses to come in for vitals and wait for breakfast. I had brought clothes with me so got into them and once I had a phone I started making phone calls to work to fill them in and to an agency I volunteered with to let them know I'd be away from home for a couple of days. Actually, I had no idea how long I was supposed to be in hospital.
There was a steady stream of visitors in and out for most of the day, including the MS clinic nurse, the hospital chaplain (though at the time I wondered what I needed a chaplain for), my mom, a co-worker, Jamie Paterson, who immediately recruited me to make an appearance at an MS Society fundraiser the next month, and the ever present nurses. One of the nurses was the sister of an acquaintance from university. She was the one who rounded up some info for me about MS, for which I was truly grateful. I knew what I had, but didn't quite understand what it could do or how.
I also got a room mate, a 40ish Middle Eastern woman who had a lung clot, and since there were no beds on the appropriate floor they put her on the neuro ward. She was on forced bed rest while undergoing treatment and more tests. She was a sweetheart. I had more energy than a two year old on sugar so would fly from my bed to the nurses station, downstairs for a Tim's coffee, back up for lunch and more visitors, and the occasional errand for my room mate (like getting a box of Kleenex) or to help her change her johhny shirt.
That evening I noticed my right hand swelling up from the IV thingy on the back of my hand. At 10 when the nurse came to give me another bag of steroids I asked if she could remove the thingy and put it in the other hand because of the swelling. She immediately removed it and attempted to put one in the opposite hand. I say attempted. She got another nurse who also failed in her attempt. and another. After the third nurse had failed I was starting to panic and hyperventilate, I was crying silently, but the tears flowed fast and furious. It hurts being poked so many times. My room mate reached out to hold my hand and try to keep me calm. Then they rounded up The Alien.
This guy showed up at my bedside, with by now, 4 nurses around me, and knelt by my side. I said I just wanted to watch ER, not be in it (it was a Thursday night). We all kind of laughed nervously and this guy slid the needle into a vein like a hot knife into butter and everyone heaved a sigh of relief. This man had to be the strangest looking human being I have ever encountered (which is why I silently dubbed him The Alien) but I suspect he had the most experience of all the nurses on the floor that night. He was a life saver that night. Well, a hand saver, anyway.
Day 3 in the hospital, again after 3 hours sleep and wandering the halls at night. My room mate's husband and teenage son arrived to visit and brought flowers. The son gave me a rose as well. My heart just melted and it was all I could do to keep from breaking down right there and then. I thanked them and left the room to give them a little privacy.
My room mate was taken for more tests that afternoon and I went to the window to look out at the blowing snow and pedestrians slipping on the ice. "Don't jump!" I heard a voice behind me. "It's not worth it" I turned to see a housekeeper pushing a cart into the room. He had a big smile on his face and I laughed out loud. I told him I had no intention of jumping out of any window and he asked how I was doing. We had a short but pleasant conversation. I have never forgotten his making me laugh.
That evening my room mate was transferred to the right ward for her and we hugged and said goodbye. I told her I'd keep her in my thoughts and prayers and she said she'd pray to Allah for me.
One of the nurses came in and said I was getting my cocktail early that night so I could go home and give the bed to someone who needed it more.
For exactly 55 hours I was a patient at the hospital. I was scared, I was happy, I cried, and I laughed. I rarely slept. I was starving. Rollercoaster doesn't even begin to cover the experience but it was the start of a long, strange trip.