The Walking Man
by Wright Forbucks
© Wright Forbucks, 2011
All rights reserved.
Chapter One: Pitiful Me
I’m not suggesting everybody should dive head first into the shallow end of a swimming pool, but being a quadriplegic is not as bad as you think.
First of all, in these tough times, you get to live rent free in an air-conditioned building. You are fed three squares a day. Plus, you are cleaned and dressed by mostly nice people who genuinely care about you. Also, if you are lucky, a special volunteer might stop by to read a book to you, and inadvertently change your life.
I joined the ranks of the motionless at age sixteen. Unlike many of my stationary brethren, the poor bastards born with horrible birth defects, I had memories of motion; I once rode a bike, tossed a baseball, and chased a girlfriend around a campfire. At my fifteenth birthday party I bowled a two hundred twenty-six, and to raise money for breast cancer, I once ran a half marathon, reaching the finish line in ninety-two minutes.
I wish I could tell you my immobility was caused by a motorcycle crash, or even better, a hang gliding mishap, but unfortunately, unlike many of my paralyzed partners at Leicester County Hospital, violent trauma was not the cause of my pathetic condition. The fact is my doctors long ago stopped trying to determine the source of my ongoing quadriplegia, which is now in its fortieth year.
4 – 0.
The terminally ill would say I have entered the “acceptance” phase of my life/death struggle. I simply refer to it as my, “excessively long goodbye.”
My original diagnosis was Myasthenia Gravis, a disease that generates antibodies that block muscle-nerve connections causing mild to severe immobility. Like all autoimmune diseases, Myasthenia Gravis happens when a hyperactive immune system destroys something good because it thinks its something bad. Accordingly, treatment options for Myasthenia Gravis include the use of one or more immunosuppressant drugs, such as Imuran. These pharmaceuticals limit a body's assault on itself while consequently increasing the odds of death due to cancer, or a common cold, a trade off my wise-ass neurologist once called, "the shit-out-of luck proposition."
In terms of severity, Myasthenia Gravis is the common cold of neurologic diseases. It is rarely fatal, and most often attacks the faces of teenage girls. Thus, misogynists and/or the ignorant believe its origins have an emotional basis.
MG, as the doctor’s and nurses call it, is most notable because affected muscles return to a normal state upon rest. This means, after a day of muscle flexing, MG sufferers look just as pathetic as the unfortunates with MS, Parkinson’s or ALS. However, after good night's sleep, they look and feel like a young Burt Reynolds, regardless of their gender.
I still clearly remember the day I was semi-misdiagnosed as having Myasthenia Gravis. It happened at Massachusetts General Hospital, the best place on earth to be if a rare disease is intent on putting you in the ground before your “time.”
Around the time of my hospital stays, 1971 I believe; the city of Boston, being a Mecca for what right-wingers would call “non” or “un” Americans, had just passed an ordinance requiring its many hospitals to hire immigrants, regardless of their qualifications.
Accordingly, the “medical technician” who shock tested my muscles appeared to have been recently imported from a Laotian rice paddy. I say this because she looked Southeast Asian, and I could smell dog on her breath.