I was cleared to go back to work three weeks after my diagnosis. My neurologist was confident that I could work, but I wasn’t so sure. Would I have the control in my fingers to give an injection? Would I be able to feel pedal pulses? Would I be able to quickly start a Cardizem drip in someone in uncontrolled A-fib (a dangerous heart rhythm)? Were my cognitive abilities good enough to assess a patient and recognize the subtle changes indicating that the patient might be getting into trouble? I lost confidence in my abilities. I was seriously stressed about going back to work.
I thought, just for a few seconds, I’ll take another week off, or two, or three. But I knew that my lack of confidence was not because I couldn’t do the job, it was because I was scared, terrified. But, I knew that I had to get back on the horse. It took every last bit of courage I had to walk through those revolving doors and climb the stairs to the 5th floor.
Thankfully, I was still on “orientation” which meant I had a preceptor that was still overseeing everything I did. My first day back to work was my first shift on nights (7pm to 7am) and was first time taking care of 4 patients. That was enough (without MS) to throw me into a panic. I walked up to the telemetry control center and found my assignment. I could feel my heart pounding, probably not unlike some of the heart rhythms I saw on the monitors! I found my preceptor working at a computer. She was soft spoken and calm. We discussed my assigned patients and her easy-going demeanor calmed me down. I got myself organized and stopped thinking about my MS. These patients were sick and I was going to take care of them.
After my shift, I walked to my car. I could feel some tingling in my legs, that stopped when I sat down in the car. I took a deep breath. I made it through my first night. And, it was just fine. I made it past another challenge. I was measuring myself by the tasks that I accomplished and challenges overcome. It was one step, one hurdle at a time. I tried not to think about my diagnosis or of what could happen. I lived for the moment.
A few weeks later, I was on my own, no more orientation. It was an unusually slow night. I was charting quietly at the computer when I heard the voice over the PA, “Code Blue RM 335.” It was one of our patients. I ran down the hall to the room. The patient’s nurse was performing chest compressions. I stood behind her waiting take over when she got tired. Meanwhile, the code team began filtering in. After two minutes we switched places. I pushed on his chest 100 times a minute, no problem. We switched back and forth until we were too tired and someone else took over.
After the code, the doctor told my charge nurse that I had done some of the best compressions he’d ever seen. Another hurdle. I realized afterward, that during the code I didn’t once think about MS. I just did what needed to be done. I was recovered physically from my first exacerbation and now I was recovering emotionally. I was surviving.
No matter where we are in our battle with MS we are survivors, as long as we live and breathe and jump the hurdles. I’m not kidding myself, I know the eventually there may be hurdles I can’t jump, but until that day comes I will live each day as it comes, I will look up at the stars with my kids, I will run in races and I will save lives.