Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Stiff Story

I will preface this funny little story by explaining how my body is affected by ALS in the cold.
I will stiffen from head to toe, I can’t speak but through my teeth, turn my head or bend. I can be in the cold I just need to be dressed for it. When this happens it’s because I am caught off guard and it can get quite painful, but I defrost very quickly with assistance. The few people who have witnessed "the stiffening" have been amazed and frightened, especially Dave. It is always in the back of his mind and he fusses over me if it’s cold and is always prepared if I should catch a chill . . . gotta love this guy!
In the beginning of my illness I was certainly not aware of all that ALS could do to my body but I had experienced the stiffening once before. I decided to meet a couple of gal pals for dinner and a movie one night when the kids were at their dads. It was late summer or early fall, I really can’t remember, except it was starting to cool off at night. I wore a cute new skirt and thought I’d bring a sweater for later in case it cooled off. We had a nice dinner at Olive Garden and then walked next door to see the latest chick flick. We were all red eyed and weepy when we left the theater to our cars back at the restaurant. I was feeling a chill, even with my sweater on probably due to the draft up the skirt. It was getting harder to walk, even with my trusty walker and I got really quite focused on the walk. The girls noticed I got quiet and was struggling but I was at my car already and quickly turned the heater on and sat down in the car. They relaxed and I acted like everything was normal so we hugged and said our goodbyes.
I was forty minutes away from home, I had to pee and it was after 10pm on a week night. Did I mention you have trouble holding your bladder with ALS? Ok, that too. I was on the freeway on a slight grade when my car started to die. I pulled over, did some swearing and assessed the situation. The car was dead, I had no cell phone and the nearest call box was too far to walk in the cold. I locked my doors and prayed a cop would come before a rapist did. I was nervous but not scared until I began to stiffen. I sat there for three hours when a cop car finally pulled up behind me and approached the car. I was so stiff I probably looked very odd in that car all stretched out like a piece of wood. The look on his face was priceless, as he tapped on the window, "Mam, you ok?" I could not turn my head but I was able to see him out of the corner of my eye and reach the door lock which allowed him to open it. "What’s wrong with you?’ he asked confused. I said, through my teeth"I need heat, a tow truck and to pee"by the third time I said it he got it and he motioned for his partner to come help. The partner came up as the other cop was trying to pry my body out of the car and he said "what’s wrong with her?" The cop said "go crank up the heat and help me get her in the back of our car" which he did but getting it done was hysterical! They bumped my head twice and took off my shoes to help, but their chatter had me laughing so hard I almost peed during the extraction. This was a first for them and they could not understand me so there we all were on the freeway. Two cops carrying this stiff as a board woman to their car, you can only imagine what this must have looked like to passing cars?
I was able to defrost in seconds and my first coherent words were "I have to pee." I explained what was happening. They called me a tow truck and were very relieved I was okay. I thanked them and gave them a big hug for saving me. I drove off in the tow truck very grateful indeed!


Grant said...


great story.

emmapeelDallas said...


What a GREAT story! I am sitting here chuckling...thanks for sharing this, Tammy.

Chris said...

Oh my gosh...and you managed to laugh at it! That's cool. But that would have been me, too. I can find a reason to laugh at everything, no matter how bad it is. This really pisses off my mom, too, because she didn't appreciate it when my brother was fighting his cancer. He did it too. Hey, laughter is the best medicine, right?!