As I stated in my last blog entry, MS is like Dim Sum. You are sitting at your table of life and little plates of symptoms are delivered to you. Most of these symptoms, if you are lucky, are short lasting and last just enough to give you a sense of what they are and leave you confused until the symptom wanes or stays permanently. I have received several plates, and some of those little meals have stayed with me, others were merely appetizers. Honestly, most of these are quite funny for the first few days as you are completely unsure what to do or how to compensate.
One of my favorites has been the change and occasional loss of balance. One minute you are standing there, and the next minute you are hanging onto whatever happened to be close to you when you started falling. On several occasions this happened to be the floor, and I was able to get a good hold of it with my face. Other times the closest thing has been another person, and if you do it properly when you grab that unsuspecting person and your entire body weight takes them by surprise you are able to fall on top of them thus cushioning your fall to the floor below you. I recommend this method as the ground tends to be hard and it is always nice to have some type of cushion when you suddenly feel the need to explore it.
Now, most of the time when balance starts to become an issue, properly coordinated movement in your extremities have already shown themselves as unreliable. For me, my legs have often decided that they know what they are doing and don't need to take direction from my brain. When this happens, I find that I can appear to others as either a drunkard or what movies have taught us a zombie would walk like after their reanimation from the dead. On Halloween this is not a problem, and if you dress accordingly you might even find yourself taking first place at a costume party which is something that I have never been able to do with a good deal of plotting and good health. Unfortunately, this can also cause you to stumble around when you are out and about in town or walking around campus, the mall, a sobriety check point, etc.
Along this topic, I have told my children hundreds of times to walk down the stairs properly and that the stairs are not there to be used to play games. We have all seen our kids try to slide down the stairs in a number of fashions and have told them the same hundred times to walk down/up the stairs like a normal person and that they could even be hurt doing it any other way. Yet, when balance and coordination turn on you, stairs can be either a death trap or an adventure. Several times a week I test gravity on my home stairs. I prefer not to say that I "fall down" the stairs, I have just found a faster way from the top of them to the bottom. If I can position myself correctly during my gravity test, I am able to slide from the top of the stairs across the hardwood floor right to the front door. I am debating about buying a pair of track pants and having my wife open the front door so that I can go from the top of the stairs, across the living room floor, out the front door, down the porch stairs, and right to the door of my truck. Just imagine all the time I would be able to save myself when I am leaving the house! Unfortunately, when my kids see (or more often hear) me gravitationally relocating from the upstairs to the downstairs they chide me for playing on the stairs like I have told them not to do so many times before.
How do you explain to an 8 and 4 year-old that you fall down the stairs because Daddy is sick and has not a lot of control over his balance and movements and tries very hard not to hurt himself when he uses the stairs. As I have discovered, there is no easy way to have this discussion, so instead I hang my head in shame, brush myself off, and tell them in my best authoritative Daddy voice: "go ahead, do it! But don't tell your mother I allowed it!"