It was an ordinary morning, except for the fact that Lee woke up with a strange tingling feeling and numbness in his hand. As the day went by, the numbness traveled up his arm, all the way to his shoulder.
Being a construction worker, Lee thought it might just be something as simple as a trapped nerve. He didn’t think more about it until the numbness reached his face the next day, and fear quickly set in.
"I understood that the symptoms could be a sign of something serious, like a stroke," noted Lee. "I realized that I had to go to the hospital."
Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis
A visit to his physician calmed him down, and more or less confirmed the trapped nerve theory. Lee started physio to see if that could release this numbness. When nothing helped, Lee went back to the doctor’s office for a new examination and MRI. This time, he got the true answer to his symptoms. Lee had lesions: two in his brain and one in his spinal cord.
The world fell around Lee, who lived an active life with two small children. At 26 years old, he suddenly went from being an average guy who loves mountain biking and fishing to one diagnosed with MS.
"It was hard to take in that I had gotten MS. I googled a lot and read all these horrible stories, which didn’t do any good for me," Lee explains. "I became really sad and depressed."
Lee has had four relapses: the initial attack that lead to the diagnosis, a second causing vertigo (intense dizziness that makes the world spin around you, affecting the balance), another where symptoms (including a tingling feeling, numbness and loss of strength) reached his leg and a fourth that affected his bladder and bowel. This final blow resulted in a urinary leakage problem, as well as constipation and other bowel issues.
"The toilet situation really worried me. Nothing seemed to be working and I had more or less given up," Lee recalls. "I didn’t think that anything could be done, so I left the thought of finding a cure, kept struggling and avoided to leave the house."
Although he initially didn't feel comfortable talking about the changes to his bladder and bowel, Lee’s wife eventually persuaded him to take the issue to his MS nurse. The nurse realized that these new problems might be connected with his MS, and referred him to a bowel nurse.
Bowel Management with TAI
After a series of tests and examinations, Lee found new hope when he was presented to a bowel management therapy called TAI (transanal irrigation). TAI helps prevent constipation and incontinence, and restores predictable bowel function.
"This equipment was very self-instructive – it took me two, three days to get used to it. Now I use it to empty my bowels every second day and I consider my bowel problems solved." Lee continues, "It is such a great relief! I’m starting to get my life back on track, and I feel confident enough to go out again".
Back to Normal
When a colleague called Lee asking if he wanted to come back to work twice a week, the answer was easy. His urinary leakage problems have so far been solved with medication, and now he is back in control of his bladder and bowel. With routines in place and worry of an accident gone, Lee is free to carry on with living a more normal life.
"Of course I want to work. I’m in the digger now, using joysticks instead of doing the other more physical tasks at the construction site," he explains. "It’s perfect. It gets me out of the house. It clears my head and keeps my mind active!"
In a couple of days, he is doing his first travel in years – to Disneyland with his wife and two little daughters. But he will also bring his bowel system.
"I got a 'passport' for the equipment to avoid explaining in the security check what I have in my suitcase. It feels good to travel again," says Lee. "It feels good to have a normal life."