Worrying is a waste of time.  Our creative, anxious ideations are hardly ever the disasters that actually occur.  I’m a particularly prolific worrier because Multiple Sclerosis can throw new symptoms our way at any time. Social media does not help.  Huffington Post, AOL News, and MS twitter blasts add to the plethora of MS symptom possibilities that can wreak havoc on our anxious imaginations.

Never in my wildest, concerned dreams did I add L’hermittes sign to the list. I’ve considered plain blindness, agonizing paralysis, typical memory loss, run-of-the-mill fatigue, as perturbed prone possibilities… But l’hermittes?

L’hermittes is one of those rare symptoms I read about in Psychology 101 to prepare for a surprise question on a test and happily forgot it once the exam was finished. Before you run to Google to look it up,  I will be the first to tell you Web MD’s vanilla explanation does not do it justice. Per Web MD, “L’Hermittes sign lasts just a few seconds, but it can be startling: An intense burst of pain like an electric shock that runs down your back into your arms and legs when you move your neck.  The problem can be painful, but it’s not life-threatening. With time or with treatment, some people stop having L’hermitte’s sign. ”

This explanation is like describing Antarctica as a tad bit cold. For me, the  taser filled, agonizing thrust of electricity made my already unstable legs collapse dropping me to the ground gasping for air with no warning. There is hardly a correlation between anything and my shock.

Shock and Awe

Shock and Awe


When I received my first lightning burst of air sucking torture,  I almost choked on my food.  Not life threatening the article says? Really?  While the l’hermittes shocks themselves may not be life threatening,  their jolt of electricity can set off a catastrophic chain of events that I just don’t need!  I cause enough trouble with dragging legs that grab carpets and towels.  But now Multiple Sclerosis has added one more selection to it’s self selecting a la carte menu that has the capacity to turn my life into the disaster du jour.  For instance,  I was leisurely standing up from my regular chair to transfer to my scooter and BAM, SHOCK!  A 100 amp jolt of electricity flew down my neck,  through my torso,  and into my right leg. While the knife wielding zap passes as rapidly as it came, it tends to occur in mid movement.  Just when I needed my balance most, the shock rendered me unbalanced heaving for the scooter sideways.  I grabbed the scooter seat with all of my might like a cat hanging off the side of a fence with its last four claws,  and a salivating dog waiting for the final drop.  My body ended up hanging in a catawampus orientation until my cries for help were heard. Did the zap kill me?  No. Could falling to the floor in midtransfer while gasping for air?  Absolutely. The floor is not my friend anymore.

How will I survive this?

How will I survive this?

When I received the first zap,  I called my neurologist stat. “New symptom,”  I explained, expecting a battery of MRI’s confirming the new activity.  He said this is most likely coming from old cervical spine lesions from up to two years ago. Perfect.

The l’hermittes sign put my thought provoking worrying gift to good use! I think twice before holding a hot, steaming cup of coffee in my hand for any length of time. Think about what fodder my imagination has with that possible, domino chain of events! And the hot curling iron is put on the OTHER side of the bathroom counter during the morning ritual for obvious reasons. And I use it only if I’m in the mood to be particularly adventurous.

While Web MD and other mundane medical descriptive websites say there is a cause and effect for l’hermittes shocks.  I’m not that lucky.  Many people afflicted with L’hermittes notice that the act of looking down will cause the death row electric chair jolt to sizzle their brain. In this case, you stop looking down. End of story. Some use a neck brace as a method of stopping themselves from looking down.

In a moment,  a new symptom can change everything when Multiple Sclerosis is involved.

In a moment, a new symptom can change everything when Multiple Sclerosis is involved.

However, I get to live my life on a variable frequency of shocks. I’m living an experience along the lines of the learned helplessness experiments. I’m not sure there’s a way out of the one. There are a few choice antiseizure meds and neurological pain meds that seem to lighten the voltage load. But just like with anything else, you have to weigh the cost/benefit ratio. Neurological pain meds make it even more difficult to control my legs,  but mitigate an endless electric chair.   Do I want to stand in place on my own or gasp for air in midsentence while chatting at dinner, knocking over my glass of water that then crashes to the floor after giving our dog a concussion? Needless to say, I’m struggling to stand and transfer.

I’m looking for a silver lining to being constantly shocked like a mouse in a maze. I’m hoping the last sentence of the WebMD paragraph is correct because they are now 0-6. I’m hoping this lightning storm ends as abruptly as it started like my double vision relapse.

I’m not a gambler, but it may be time to visit a casino. The odds of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis are 1 in 750. Out of those people, it’s estimated 33% will use a wheelchair full time.  I’m part of this small,  selective group. Furthermore, the odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 960,000 (considering a life span of 80 years). The odds of the same person being struck by lightning twice in the same 80 year lifetime are approximately 1 in 9 million.  What are the odds of getting struck by lightning 20 times a days?  I’m not sure,  but Vegas here I come!

Vegas,  here I come.

Vegas, here I come.