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What My Nursing Degree Couldn't Help Me With After My MS Diagnosis

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I went into the clinic, gripping my mom’s arm for support. I couldn’t walk straight. My feet wouldn’t do what I wanted them to do.

An employee spotted us come through the door, took one look at the way I was walking and asked, “Honey, do you need a wheelchair?” I told her no, that I was fine, thanks. But, secretly, I knew what I must look like. It was no wonder she asked.

The neurologist’s words  from the day before echoed in my ear as I took a seat next to my mom: “The findings from the MRI are consistent with multiple sclerosis, but I’m going to schedule you for a lumbar puncture just to be sure.”

I just had graduated nursing school. I knew all about lumbar punctures. Needless to say, I wasn’t all that thrilled for the procedure. The nurse came to bring me back to the procedure room. My mom stood up to go with me and the nurse told her she couldn’t come back with me. A sick feeling of dread filled the pit of my stomach as my mom sat back down, not without protesting, and I stumbled after the nurse.

Sitting on the procedure table, I numbly listened to the doctor explain the lumbar puncture and the risks involved. I signed my name on the consent form and assumed the position needed to begin the procedure. I laid on my right side, staring at the white wall on the other side of the room. As the doctor began inserting the needle filled with lidocaine into my back, I couldn’t stop the silent tears that dripped onto the bridge of my nose, to my other cheek, and then the tile floor. I didn’t dare reach up to swipe them away for fear of my movement causing a problem. It was in that moment that I knew. All the education from my nursing degree swirling around in my brain wasn’t going to help me now. I just knew that I wanted my mom.

In that moment, I was just another patient. I felt like a child. In that moment, the fact that I finally had a nursing degree meant nothing. It’s amazing the feelings of helplessness that envelope you after a diagnosis. You need people there. Despite my medical training and knowledge of what was to come, which should have silenced some feelings of fear, I just needed my mom.

The important take-away from this story is that it’s OK to be vulnerable. It’s OK to want someone to be there. It’s OK to be scared. It’s one thing to treat patients and tell them that they’re going to be fine. It’s a whole other thing to be one of those patients. Empathy is a trait that is too often missing from peoples’ lives. Turns out, my experiences have formed me into a better nurse. Healing sometimes comes through that vulnerability. We don’t always have to be the strong one.

Originally published: February 14, 2017
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