So one of the lovely perks of having Multiple Sclerosis can sometimes be loss of bladder control. Because the transmission of signals to and from the brain is slowed or interrupted, the electrical impulses to the muscles that are involved in emptying the bladder can become disrupted and apparently, about 80 % of us deal with variations of urinary urgency, urinary hesitancy, or incontinence. Lovely.
In the seven years it’s been since MS took up occupancy in my body, there have been a variety of symptoms that have come and gone. The unpredictability of how this illness operates keeps me on my toes, I’ll give it that, but one morning during last month’s heat wave it gave me some excitement I hadn’t experienced yet.
It’s no secret that high temperatures are a major problem for people with MS. I’ve got my ways and means to try to keep cool, and for the most part I manage. I’m always on the lookout for the closest air-conditioned spot and I try to time my travel to make sure I’m not out in the sun for too long. Subway cars are great when the mercury rises because they crank up the air, practically to the point of needing a parka if your ride is longer than fifteen.
The platforms are a different story entirely.
I wore a dress to work that day (knee-length, cotton) with pink pearls, yet! My yellow peep-toe wedges brightened up the look and I felt all right. I was already perspiring a little from my bike ride from home to the subway (yeah, I do that), but I wasn’t worried because I knew that in a matter of a minute or so I’d be bathed in cool when the train rolled in.
But it didn’t. A minute passed, then another, then a few more, and every breath I took got hotter and thicker until I was panting and using one of those free newspapers they hand out to fan myself. I paced up and down, leaning to look down the track willing the train arrive, but there was no light moving through the tunnel. My shoulders started to slump under the weight of my tote and the water in my Poland Spring bottle was already warm.
After eight minutes, my vision got a little blurry and I kept blinking to make sure it was only one lady wearing sunglasses and a polka dot shirt standing next to me, and not four. My right hand started trembling and I wanted to lean against the trash can, but it was too far away and I was afraid that if I walked over to it, I’d lose my balance and fall. Then it happened.
I felt a thin warm trickle going down my inner thigh, behind my knee, down my calf and into my shoe. I held my breath in panic and tried to scan the faces of the people near me. I wanted to cry, but of course my eyes were the one place not offering any water. Could anyone tell that I had just peed myself? Did I just pee myself? Holy shit, I just peed myself! I didn’t want to look down, I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, but I had to check because somehow, even though I certainly felt wetness flowing down from…you know where, I could not believe it.
I took a step forward, pretending to pace and slid my hand quickly over my behind. I felt the uncomfortable squish of my bare foot in my shoe, but nothing was amiss around my backside. My dress was practically stuck to me, but I wasn’t leaking anymore and I didn’t appear to be giving off any unpleasant smell. The only reason I didn’t bolt up the stairs and out of the train station is that I was too weak and dizzy for bolting. I was stuck in my steamy wetness, and then the train came.
I staggered into the car and leaned against the doors with my legs held apart for uh, ventilation. After a few minutes of scanning faces, looking to see whose nose was turned up, realized that I hadn’t peed at all. I was sweating profusely all over and in the disorienting heat, my mind and my loins had played a trick on me. By the time I got to my stop downtown, I was appropriately dry, but totally wiped out. I made it out to the street and stopped at my usual cart for a large iced coffee.
The sweet Pakistani vendor (I know because I asked) who handed me my cup saw the look of desperate relief on my face and asked me if I was all right, but what could I say to him? Oh, I thought I peed myself in the subway and that tends to happen to people with MS so I might have to start wearing Depends? But other than that, I’m fine!
I’m ok, it’s just really hot. Thank you.