When MS Strikes

I haven’t posted anything about Multiple Sclerosis this week because Ken has had a pretty good week. . . specifically I mean he didn’t fall once.His falls make my heart stop before I run to his aid.

We went out for lunch yesterday, and I can see our outing is taking a toll today. He’s struggling to charge his power wheelchair and then walk four feet to his recliner. When he does complain, which is hardly ever, he says he feels off balance. Can you imagine that? I can’t. As time goes on, he’s losing the ability to walk at all. It’s like his feet and his brain are on two different frequencies and needless to say, his thoughts and actions don’t communicate.

Now he can’t stand up and give me a hug and kiss because his balance is so poor. Some times his speech is slurred and I can’t understand him. When I tell him so, he must concentrate on just get the words out. But at least these episodes are not frequent. I don’t think either of us could tolerate that.

But the times when debilitating fatigue takes over are the worst. I fear someday these symptoms will become the norm. I fear someday he’ll have to go to a nursing home because I can’t take care of him any more. I’m hoping by that time, we can just have the necessary equipment moved in and a 24-hour nurse will stand by.

I think uncertainty is the real culprit. I’ve found that when I understand a situation, I find a way to cope. But this enemy is tricky. A symptom might appear today and scare the heck out of us, only to vanish the next day. One symptom we’ve encountered a couple of times is uncontrollable crying. It’s called PBA. We got medication for it, but later found out the psych drugs he must take which help him think are not compatible with the PBA drug. So we had to stop it. Luckily, Ken hasn’t suffered the disturbing crying episode again.

During the past six years we’ve been together full time, most of it has been good. I’ve had to assume many more household duties I don’t like to do (cutting grass comes to mind), but I’m at least able to spend the good days with the man I love. If I was working, all day, I’d be thinking about how he was doing at home alone. With me here, at least he can get out of the four walls and enjoy the cooking of someone else once in a while.



Chapter 7

Northern England – August 1942—Johnny flew with the Brits before the Americans entered the war in Europe through a special arrangement between the United States and Britain. During that time, he became a seasoned and very talented Spitfire pilot.

After  Germany declared war on the United States, his orders transferred him to the 31st Fighter Group of the Eighth Air Force which was stationed at Westhampnett, England. Because of his previous combat experience with the RAF, Johnny became a valuable asset. Instead of flying combat missions, he now taught the green U. S. pilots how to fly and fight together in tight formations. Soon these novices would undertake daylight strategic bombing campaigns over the European continent. The good news was half of the highly trained Luftwaffe pilots had been stationed on the eastern front,supporting the German soldiers on the ground in the Soviet Union.

Now that hundreds of American pilots were filtering into England Johnny didn’t feel like such an anomaly. Their Midwestern, Southern, and even east coast accents brought a slice of home to him. Their presence helped ease the sting of losing so many of his RAF buddies in battle.

Johnny proved to be a born teacher. He stressed flying in battle needed to be a buddy activity. He taught fighter pilots the finer points of working with their wing men to escort the B-17 bombers to their destinations. The cocky young bucks needed to be tamed. Most of their bravado could be attributed to their youth, but their willingness to take risks was essential too because the physical, mental, and emotional demands of air fighting required these qualities. Johnny trained them to walk this delicate line to stay alive.

Pilots faced other dangers beside the Luftwaffe. Flight suits didn’t protect the crews from the below zero temperatures they endured at high elevations.  Another enemy proved to be flak fields produced by anti-aircraft guns on the ground. Flying through a flak field  got to be part of every mission. After their first mission, the young bucks realized their lives could be snuffed out in a flash. If a pilot put his plane in a fast dive, he often suffered blackouts–when for a fraction of a second gravity pulled the blood from his brains. If the pilot recovered in time, he needed to make a sharp skidding turn to ensure he lived to fight another day.

Seasoned pilots admitted fear, and eventually every pilot faced a time when the competition or “sport” of the flying game didn’t sustain them any longer. That’s when the instinct, training, and the release of adrenaline took over. Climbing in the cockpit after several missions got to be like any other job in the war. There was a chance he might not see tomorrow.


In April, Johnny flew with a thousand bombers to destroy the city of Cologne. Besides the destructive bombs, they also dropped Allied propaganda leaflets that read: “We are bombing Germany city by city. Don’t let the Nazi’s drag you down–it is up to you. We are coming!”

After the run, Johnny meandered into the mess hall to get a cup of coffee. He found a new guy staring out a window. Johnny recognized the signs of trauma and walked over to the young pilot. “Hey Randy. How’s it going? Tough day?”

The young boy’s eyes said everything that needed to be said. Johnny stood beside him in silence.

Before too long, Randy opened up. “When I got here, I wanted to get up there and fly to my first bombing mission. I didn’t care about how important the target might be. I just wanted to bomb the hell out of the Krauts. Today I few Red-Two, the wing man for the squadron leader. We patrolled parallel to the side and above another bomb wing. All of a sudden, a huge burst of flak exploded directly in front of the lead aircraft. The pilot needed to fly straight into the flak field to complete the mission.   At the end of the day, we must complete our mission. Right major?”

Johnny nodded. “Go on.”

“The flak hit the B-17, and the pilot did a sudden quarter roll to the left, away from the formation.” Randy cried. “I’m sorry, sir. I don’t mean to break up.”

“Keep going.” Johnny said. “It helps to talk about these things.”

“A blazing flash of fire blinded me and when the sky cleared, the plane vanished. No parachutes hung in the sky below. I looked down and saw a few small smoking pieces of the plane fall to earth. Ten men. Gone. I ate breakfast with that crew this morning! And now–there’s no trace of them.”  The young pilot’s voice cracked as he relived the event. “How do I get over this, sir? How can I climb in a plane again, knowing something like that can happen to me?”

Johnny put his arm around the new pilot’s shoulder. “You just do. It’s our job. That is why we’re here.”

Every time Johnny listened to stories like this, he shared the loss. The first time proved to be the hardest. Losing buddies in the air felt like being hit with a sucker punch that knocks the wind out of a person.

“Unfortunately, all fighter pilots experience this, Randy. Losing buddies in the air never gets easy. Even after flying over here for two years, sometimes I can’t get out of the cockpit after a close call. Witnessing someone dying in front of your eyes means you narrowly escaped the grim reaper. Every time we go up there’s no insurance policy we’ll come down in one piece. I can’t tell you accepting times like this will get easier, but the more seasoned you get, you’ll put the losses behind you faster. You can’t think about dying. You need to be cocky enough to think you can fly out of anything.”

Randy nodded.

Johnny remained with him for a few more minutes. “From now on, fly for the guys who died today. You’ll kill the bastards who took their lives. Right now the only thing you can do is cry or get drunk. You need to put this horror behind because tomorrow is a new day and your job requires you to crawl into the cockpit again. Always believe you’re going to be the lucky one who comes back.”

Randy’s tears quietly rolled down his cheek.

Johnny put his arm around his shoulder. “Come on lieutenant. Let the sorrow out. Don’t be ashamed you care.” Johnny led him toward the door. “Come on. I’ll buy the first round.”

Chapter 8

Paris, France-April—The weeks following Emma’s arrest, the Gestapo picked up Marta for interrogation. They questioned her all day, let her go, and then picked her up again the next day for more of the same questions. After a few weeks of this routine, the Gestapo realized Marta did not work with the French Resistance.

Her meager wages at the Louvre didn’t cover the rent on the apartment, so she moved to a one-room studio became available in the building. The woman who previously lived there moved to join her husband in England with the help of Pierre’s group.

Moving into a smaller apartment made Emma’s absence too real for Marta. The last two years together gave both of them the love they desired. Emma opened a whole new world for Marta, showing her the way to discover her true self. Marta loved being near fine art all day and went home to a cheerful partner. Now, the Nazis kept her in a prison somewhere in Germany. Not knowing her whereabouts was the hardest part of their separation.

With Emma gone, Marta understood her mother’s angst over her father’s absence.  She thought about leaving Paris and returning to Berlin to comfort her mother, but Marta realized she might never find Emma if she left Paris. Her mother’s last letter told her it had been months without a word from her father. She also said newspaper stories about the eastern front battles were manufactured by Hitler’s propaganda machine.

Marta stuttered and stammered as to what to do. She wanted to find Emma, but she realized she didn’t possess the street smarts to take on any covert assignments.  Then she thought perhaps her mother might be able to help her. She picked up a pen and started writing.

April 30, 1942

Dear Mutter,

 I apologize for not writing as often as I should, but as you might imagine building a new life in a different city is all-consuming. But now I find myself alone and I am struggling. I wish I could speak with you over a warm cup of hot chocolate because your advice is always wise.

 The Gestapo arrested Emma some weeks ago and sent her to a prison somewhere in Germany. The ridiculous charges against her sentenced her to three years in a Gestapo prison. She is no enemy of Germany. She never showed any signs of being a part of the Resistance, but the Nazis do as they please regardless of the truth.

 I am wondering whether you can use your connections to get her released. I realize you are in touch with women who are married to high ranking officers, like Vater, so perhaps you might be able to find Emma’s whereabouts.  If you cannot help with Vater away on the eastern front, perhaps others can shed some light where she is being held.

Emma suffered plenty at the hands of the Gestapo right here in Paris. I went to her farce of a trial, and I hardly recognized her. She appeared undernourished with many bruises on her face. They cut her hair short and uneven. Her dirty clothes hung on her thin frame.  I can only imagine what they are doing to her now. I am so scared for her.

 Please do whatever you can to help me learn where she is being held.

Love, Marta

3 thoughts on “When MS Strikes

  1. It sounds as if Ken is struggling more and more these days with you right behind him. I know of another blogger who is coping with a disabled husband alone with no funds. You might want to pop over and commiserate. Her husband doesn’t have MS but is totally disabled. Sometimes it’s nice to talk to someone who really knows what it’s like.
    Also, Alys at Gardening Nirvana/ Born to Organize (2 separate blogs) sometimes writes about her younger sister with MS.
    Hang in there. I’ll pop back by soon. Hugs.

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