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“Being an MSer brings with it a myriad of surprises”

As the mercury looks set to climb again this week, Martin Baum recounts his struggles during the recent heatwave.

Picture the scene. To say I’m overheating would be an understatement. I am literally dripping in my perspiration and it just won’t stop.

For almost 40 years I have endured fatigue, speech and sight issues, as well as everything else that goes with having multiple sclerosis (MS). Disconcerting, then, that I found myself at 5.30AM in the morning recently on the kitchen floor, completely starkers (as you do), door open, overwhelmed by pulsating beads of sweat that refuse to abate no matter how vigorously I try to towel myself dry.

My saviour

Fortunately, though, my wife Lizzy was there to calm me and sponge me down for almost an hour. Some might say lucky me and, in different circumstances, I might agree. I don’t doubt the recent heatwave was a major contributory factor but the feeling of not being able to find an off switch for my body thermostat was very distressing.

But Lizzy’s a practical woman who not only knows how to reassure a percolating stark-naked man but also, thankfully, how to Google heat sensitivity with MS. Here is what she found:

‘MS damages the protective sheath around nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord. This slows down nerve signals so your body doesn’t always respond the way it should. Heat can slow these signals even more. MS can also affect the part of your brain that controls your body’s temperature.’

It was difficult for me to process that information along with the birdsong that informed me that morning had broken. But then, as I have found, being an MSer brings with it a myriad of surprises, or should that be challenges, that make life that little bit more character building.

Mixed signals

Over the years I have learned to live with mixed brain signals that have fooled me into thinking that a bowl of hot soup was cold. Or times when my brain had hoodwinked me into thinking that walking backwards instead of forward was a better idea. So now these transmission glitches that cause me to seriously overheat can be added to my MS martyrdom.

But I am far from down, and nor do I consider myself a lost cause. We’ve bought cooling gel pillows and a high-tech fan for the bedroom, so next time the mind wants what the body can’t give, it won’t be through lack of trying!