Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Doctors: You May be Wrong For all I know, But You May Be Right.

Today I got to see some old friends again. I had not visited Sacred Heart Community Service. I had not visited them in close to two years. I had not had a chance to help out since the day I left San Jose in 2005. For this day, I knew there was a chance I would be working out in the pantry. I knew that I might be working with food. I knew to visit SHCS I would need to wear regular, close-toed shoes.

My mother bought me some fine shoes in the weeks preceding my trip to the island of Jawa. A pair of Brown Skechers, these shoes look simple, clean, and very stylish. Besides, they are the only close toed shoes I own, and I was actually excited to pull them off the shelf. My memory is not spectacular, but I stand assured I wore those shoes at least once, but no more than three times. Froom the day I prepared to board Cathay Pacific's flight to Hong Kong, I put on a pair of quality sandals, and they remained my footwear of choice until today.

I will say this was a casual decision until I actually attempted to put on the shoes. I pulled the skechers off the shelf, and put on some white socks. I have been in a wheelchair since June, and did not realize the challenges my legs are giving me. I loosened the shoe laces, and (after pulling my left leg onto my right thigh), noted that I di'd not have the strength to force my foot into the shoe. After less than ten minutes of wrestling with myself (think Edward Norton in Fight Club), I wiped the blood from my nose (just kidding) and succeeded in getting both shoes on my feet. I proceeded to bus off to SHCS.

I showed up at the back dock. My friends, Andy and Maureen, had given me a Pronto electric wheelchair.Wheeling to the back dock, I spoke to the supervisors, and they directed me to the clothing closet. Behind rolling petitions, SHCS keeps enormous bins refilled constantly with clothing. My supervisor, a woman named Angela, instructed me to sort the clothing, and place them on hangers.

The enormous bins are filled with donated, un-folded, and unsorted clothing. Actually, some of the clothing is folded. Some of the clothing is actually washed, and some of it is brand new. Some of the clothes are dirty, unfolded, and torn. My instructions are to sort the clothing, and select which clothes that seem to be of greatest quality. I am not to put out clothing that I would never purchase for myself or family . Ignoring the desire of some to have clothes with stains, rips, or tears, we have a standard that such clothes are automatically recycled. Everything from old socks to pristine dress suits make way through the clothes closet.

Standing in line, people are given a time limit to find and select what clothes they want to take for themselves. Once I realized how much quality clothing finds new homes through this service, I developed a deep appreciation for the work. Looking at the bins of outdated, mismatched, and unwanted clothing, I sometimes lose sight of what an enormous amount of clothing gets moved into grateful hands on a daily basis because of this organization.

As an aside: this past week I visited for the first time a neurologist here in San Jose to address the problems I have been having. I have a dragging foot, a loss of balance. I am losing sensation in my hands, leaving myself able to type with only my two index fingers. I am now spending the bulk of my waking hours in a wheelchair, with a walker to help me around my new apartment.

My new doctor has reviewed my file, interviewed me for over an hour with a Stanford trained doctor reviewing my chart,and the two of them told me the same thing. Despite my previous diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, they do not believe my test results, nor my history support conclusively that diagnosis. The possibilities I was told included the hinted suggestion my problems may be reversible. We are awaiting more tests, but I am staying hopeful.

I already have family members worried that I am investing too much in the possibility of even a partial recovery. Even I have to admit that my condition could even be worse than I thought. I smile, because I remain far more productive when I invest in hope. Never once did I see a bumper sticker that read : "Got despair?"

Thank you for reading.

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