When it’s Time to Say Goodbye

When I was thirteen my Grandpa gave me this Stanley No 77 dowel making machine. I was just getting into woodworking at the time and the machine sitting on top of a cabinet in his shop caught my eye. When I asked what it did, he told me it makes dowels out of any wood you shove into the cutter. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen. A few months later he ended up giving it to me and I have kept it to this day as something I would never sell.

After being diagnosed with NMO/Devic’s Disease earlier this week, I started to put things into perspective. With treatment, I should be okay but the vision loss in my left eye and the tightness in my legs and groin may never get better. Nevertheless, I realize what is truly important in life.  I think of all the tools I own and the tools I’d like to buy if I’d just had the money.

I have wanted a Apollo HVLP sprayer for the past few years but they’re about $800-1200. Not the kind of cash I have just lying around. So I keep looking at some of the tools I own but never use to help pay for the sprayer. The dowel making machine is on top of the list.

I’ve kept the dowel machine for sentimental reasons along with its cool factor. The only problem, is that I never use it. I’ve owned it for over twenty-five years, probably longer than my Grandpa, and have only played with it a few times. I really don’t think my Grandpa used it either. My Grandpa was more of a mechanic than a woodworker restoring old Model T’s when he was alive. The only time he got involved with woodworking was when he repaired the spoked wheels on the cars. I never saw dowels lying around his shop where he was cranking them out with his Stanley No 77. So why did he own it? I have no idea. Maybe he picked it up at a yard sale thinking it would come in handy someday.

It may be the very reason he gave it to me. Since he never used it, he thought with my budding woodworking aspirations that maybe I would. But I never have. I don’t use dowels all that much, and when I do, I go to the store and buy some. Even if I needed a dowel out of a certain hardwood, I could simply turn it on the lathe. Not only that, but the only cutter I have for the dowel machine is 3/8″ so I’m screwed if I need a different size. Forget about buying additional cutters for it. They run about $100 a pop and a $100 will buy a whole bunch of dowels.

Screw it, I’m done. I’m selling the machine and using the money toward a HVLP sprayer. Something that I’ll actually use. I don’t think my Grandpa would care.

NMO/ Devic’s Disease

A few months ago I wrote about how I lost my vision through atypical optic neuritis and dodge a bullet being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Well the past couple of months haven’t been so lucky with me.

It happened eight weeks ago while in Lowe’s I noticed that my left foot was slightly tingling and numb. I blew it off at the time as an odd occurrence although back in my mind I was concerned. I woke up in the morning with excruciating back pain and asked my wife Anita to rub it. The back pain eventually went away but later in the day I noticed that my other foot was starting to go numb. I was still hopeful that it was nothing serious and even asked my older brother Steve if he’s ever had this happen to him. He said he did and that it was more likely just a pinched nerve and it would probably go away in a couple of weeks.

A few days go by and I noticed that my legs and feet were getting worse. The numbness went from my feet through my calves up to the knees while also having numbness in my groin area. It felt like I was sitting on a grapefruit when I sat down and I constantly felt pressure in the area. I knew then that this was no pinched nerve.

Concerned, Anita called my eye doctor to tell him what was going on. He told her to have me visit a neurologist so they could look at me. While at the neurologist, I explained my symptoms and the doctor felt I had transverse myelitis on my spine but would need a MRI to confirm. Transverse myelitis is the inflammation of the spinal cord brought on by environmental factors or a virus. It can be so severe that some people with the condition can not walk after an attack. Unfortunately when an attack does occur, it can take several months to a couple of years before the patient returns to normal.

After I got back from having the MRI, the doctor looked at the images and confirmed that it was transverse myelitis possibly brought on by MS. He told me that I have a mild case of it since I still can walk but it would eventually go away in a few months. He gave me the number of a neurologist who specializes in MS in case I wanted a second opinion. My wife called and made an appointment but the doctor couldn’t see me until Feb 2013. The doctor’s assistant told my wife that if my condition worsens that I should go to the University of Cincinnati Hospital emergency room.

A few days go by and I noticed that my numbness continued to climb up my legs into my thighs. Also my abdominal area was starting to feel numb as well. By this time, I was dealing with this issue for seven weeks with no signs of improvement. My wife Anita pleaded with me to go to the hospital but I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to overreact and wasn’t too thrilled about going to the hospital anyway.

Then last Wednesday I decided to finally take care of my health and went to UC Hospital. When we get to the emergency room, the nurses and doctors asked me a ton of questions trying to diagnose my condition. They had me walking around on my tippy toes and then walk a line like a DUI suspect. Then they gave me a bunch of neurological tests like smiling and touching my nose to their finger as if I were a stroke patient. They decided they needed to do a bunch of tests on me so they sent me upstairs to be admitted.

While in the hospital, they drew tons of blood from my arm and gave me multiple MRI’s on my back and head. The doctors needed to determine if I had MS or NMO which is Neuromyelitist Optica also known as Devic’s Disease or some other abnormality. The worse part was they needed to do a spinal tap in order to make a conclusive diagnosis. The thought of having a needle stuck in my spine was unnerving. The MS doctor I was planning on seeing in February came to visit me in my room. She thought that I possibly had NMO but would need the results from the spinal tap in a couple of weeks to be sure. In the meantime, she wanted to schedule me an appointment within a week in her office and get me on a drug called Rituxan which should help me with my symptoms.

After three days in the hospital they pumped me with a 1000 mg of IV steroids a day to help alleviate my condition. I was released last Friday but still needed three more days of IV steroids at home. Earlier this week, I went to see the MS doctor. She checked over my condition to see if I worsened and reminded me that I’m extremely lucky that I still have strength in my legs and can still walk. Many of her patients visit her in a wheel chair.

Monday I start treatment of Rituxan which is a form of chemotherapy. I’ll have one treatment Monday and then another on the 22nd. The other day I had another MRI at UC’s imaging center to see if the inflammation has gone down.  I’ll have a follow-up MRI after my second treatment of Rituxan to see how the disease has progressed. By then the results from the spinal tap will be back which should tell what’s exactly wrong with me.

It’s been a trying few weeks but I know I am EXTREMELY lucky. One for not having severe case of transverse myelitis. Two for having a supporting wife and family who help me through this difficult time. And three for having health insurance. I don’t know what the final bill will be for all this but all I know is that if this would have had happened to me three years ago when I was unemployed, I’d be in financial ruin. All I know is you can’t take your life for granted because at any time it can be taken away from you.