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Me and MS

by John Hayes

It was early 1973. I was employed as a programming assistant at the Commonwealth Department of Education. My section was on the third floor, and I used to run up and down the stairs, rather than waiting for the lift, as at times it was quicker.

This particular lunchtime I was running down the stairs to get to the canteen early, (a girl I fancied ate there, so it was rather important to her table before other bods did!). I tripped. This had happened several times over the past few weeks, but this time my boss saw me fall. He told me to get myself to the hospital.

I did, and was shown into a cubicle. There was a small bed, and a desk, with a fair looking young woman behind it. My luck was going OK! I made a note of her good figure, lovely eyes and a nice soft voice. She read my card.

"Now let me see" she said, "Sit down John, no better still, how about you lie down on the bed".

"Oh yes !", I thought, and quickly did.

She came over holding a small hammer in her hand, "Now this won't hurt", she purred, tapping my ankles and then my knees. Not exactly the way it was supposed to happen, I thought.

She then ordered me to pull my pants down and sit on the edge of the bed. This I quickly did, under her watchful eyes. This bird is a strange one, I thought.

She went to the draw of her desk, then came over, looking me in the eyes and started to stroke my right leg (at last, I thought!).

I followed her eyes to my legs. Then (shock!) she used a small needle to prick my skin and asked me if it hurt. Very weird bird, to say the least, "No, it did not hurt", I replied. With a texta pen, she proceeded to stick the needle in all over my legs and marking all areas that were numb. After about half an hour of this, my legs looked as though someone had played noughts and crosses on them.

"John", she said "I am writing you a letter for you to take to a neurologist".

I felt like telling her we had not finished, but, with great grit, I held my breath.

An appointment was made to see a neurologist, who admitted me to Royal Canberra Hospital the following week.

Lots of tests and several days later, he told me I had 'disseminating sclerosis' ??. I had never heard of it! So I just went back to my normal hectic style of life.

I just could not see what all the fuss was about. I felt good, could still drive the rally car, play guitar in the band and have a damn good time, drink lots and have a little grass to boot. Life was a breeze.

In 1976, the personnel officer asked to see me. 'What have I done or not done!', I thought.

When I saw him he told me that he had been informed that I suffer from disseminating sclerosis. I was to see the Commonwealth Medical Officer on the following Monday - he had made an appointment for me!

That Saturday night was band night, a very late night as per normal.

I went to see the CMO on Monday. I walked into his office, looking for the examination couch to lie on.

"Sit down John", he said

I pulled up a chair. "Tsk, tsk ", he uttered. He was reading my file. What was in it? I had no idea. I became worried about whatever was in the file.

He looked at me, saying "Oh !, you poor boy". I was shocked to the core! Had he lost his marbles? Had the world gone crazy ?

The CMO straightened up in his chair, and looking at me said "John, I am going to recommend that you are retired from the Public Service, due to ill health. You will be put on a pension".

Driving back to the office with my mind in a whirl, I knew that I was not sick - my lifestyle was the problem, of that I was sure.

The next afternoon, a woman came to get me to sign heaps of official-looking papers and told me that as I had a lot of accrued leave to take, I should finish up on Thursday. My hectic style of life came to a stop!

I lazed around the house for several weeks, living for band nights or car rallies, drinking all hours of the day, just bored stupid. At last I decided to move in my girlfriend and her two kids. She was a good looking chick with a good body to boot!

Several weeks later, the Department gave me a send off party, I felt very important, as the Departmental Secretary, most of the Directors and a lot of the staff were in attendance. Of course, the best things were 'the women, music and grog'.

We stayed at my house in Torrens ACT, for about 12 months, then decided to travel around Australia. Headed down to the South Coast as a starter, rented a house owned by a real estate agent in Canberra. We found that we liked the area.

Still together, we then moved north of Batemans Bay to a house located on a farm at Benandra. While there, Debbie became pregnant and later gave birth to a son, Jamie lee. Everything was great , and we bought 25 acres of bush land at Mogo.

Debbie became pregnant again, then came Bradley John. There were now six of us.

A local chap fenced our property, and we obtained some calves plus a milking cow. We bought a nice old timber house from Batemans Bay and moved it to the "farm". We became very friendly with the local community at Mogo.

Soon we were living in the house, power from the sun, a gas fridge, an open fire, then the local Apex club gave us a slow combustion stove. Next came the fowls, and we were given some wild pigs by a local Abbo. We were setting up our land, from bush - to a farm. Local service clubs, Apex, Lions, Rotary and the MS society etc. were all giving lots of help. We built a front verandah on the house, and an above ground swimming pool.

But it was all too much - the MS raised its head again. I could feel myself slowly going down.

The time had come for my wife and myself to split. I then went back to my old ways, and became a real 'B'.

Strange as it may sound, I regard MS as my friend. You may think that I've lost my marbles, but having MS has made me alter my mode of life drastically. I now take an interest in my health etc.. Before MS, it was 'she'll be right mate'.

It is now twenty six years since I was told I had MS, lots has happened since. Memory and effort get the better of me most days, but I am still proud of my friend MS. MS has made me very sure of myself and whatever I do. The MS has also added years to my life, I'm sure!

I now use a wheelchair. I have to be hand fed on hot days, lifted out of bed in the mornings, placed in a shower chair to bathe, and lifted into bed at night. People think life is hard, but I think it is we who make life hard on ourselves. In life, 'You only get one chance'.

So I take good care of MS. To date, MS has looked after me.

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