At a local swimming pool another one of my random thoughts struck.
On your marks…
The thought centred on knowing about something before the experience arrives. Almost prescient to an event and being ready when it happens. Does having information early provide either comfort or terror?
The event that brought me to my thought was, a boy of about 16/17 who stumbled out of a swimming pool near to my family and me. He walked with difficulty to the poolside near to us and appeared to slump onto his back. The incident happened quietly and quickly at a packed Lido. He began twitching and both of his hands curled into fists with his thumbs pinned inside his hands.
I wondered what could be happening. The boy appeared calm in voice as he explained to his friend to get help. A life guard arrived moments later and radioed for senior management. The pool was packed and the life guard’s attention seemed split into a number of other directions.
Management sped over to the prostrate young man and after a few questions with him, called 999. Over the phone instructions were offered to calm and reassure the young man. Within 15 minutes a paramedic arrived and took over. I wondered again about what the boy was experiencing and was transported back to lying on my back on sports day after running my heart out. This was June 1990. I had just completed a 200m final sprint, came 2nd and was to compete in a triple jump event for my class team.
Before the 200m I had successfully contested and run against, the school’s favourite and won against him in the 1500m. Back then, something unexplainable was going on and my body was failing me. This was before my 2011 diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. I wanted to get up, run and compete again. 3 events in one day I knew I could do it, but my 16 year old pre-diagnosed body had other ideas.
I lay prone and incapable of moving for at least 30-40 minutes, on a beautiful summers day, on a school field in Cambridgeshire. A number of people mostly fellow pupils showed concern and asked if they could help. At which I said “No, I’m alright”. I didn’t understand what was happening to me, and was too embarrassed at feeling so weak and powerless to accept help.
This then was my first glaring incident of a relapse. It sucked! I can still hear my fear anger and anguished thoughts ricochet around my head. “But this shouldn’t be happening to me? What about my team? I’m not helping us win! What’s going on? What the hell is this?! What’s wrong with me?”
My thoughts wander back to the boy. At this side of the pool lying on his side, pronounced as needing support and not knowing what this mysterious illness is. Perhaps it is or is not MS. Perhaps it is another debilitating auto immune disease that like a thief, a picket pocket, appears disappears and removes slowly, imperceptibly, all that is held dear.
Maybe it is better not to know and live with no to little knowledge about a challenging future that could be ahead. Managing an illness that disrupts brain to body connections and renders the sentient being housed in said body mute, captive, ignorant and helpless.
I remained silent and said nothing. Reluctant at handing to this young man an idea of a future that is largely an uncomfortable unknown – a morass of uncertainty and discomfort. Perhaps it is best I look on and hope that his mysterious twitching and collapse is something more explained like blood sugar levels or early onset type 1 diabetes – rather than an auto immune disease.
I lived for 20 years with a certainty that I was as healthy and as physically and mentally able as I was supposed to be. I would not want to rob another of a chance to live for better or worse in the knowledge that life as they knew it was irrevocably altered and that new designs were to be placed. A life pattern redrawn. At 16 the news might be impossible to digest.
What would you have done?