• Penny Stevens

Fond, fun-filled memories of John

I met John as an in-patient at our local neurological rehabilitation hospital about 10 years ago. We became good friends and, despite already being more years on from the first flush of youth than I care to remember, we were often in trouble for misbehaving. We could come and go as we pleased as long as we arrived on time for all appointments. 'Red rag to a bull’ for us.

One nice evening we decided to go to the local pub. Luckily it was wheelchair accessible and only a few hundred yards from the hospital. At the time John had a power chair and I staggered there with sticks. Unfortunately I drank a bit too much and could hardly ‘walk’ when I hit the air outside to head back. John had a light bulb moment. “Sit on my lap and we'll be back inside within 10 minutes.” We giggled all the way back. At the hospital entrance there's an automatic door and as soon as it opened John put the brakes on and I shot off his lap to arrive spread-eagled in between the automatic doors which tried their level best to shut across my body (doubtless fed up of hospital food!). I can't repeat what the nurses said!

We had sat in the pub talking about how we'd received our MS diagnoses. I told John I was ashamed to say that I swore at my GP when he gave me the glad news. John's, we decided, was hysterically funny - all the more so as we’d sunk a few drinks. His GP would not believe he had anything wrong so John decided to go private. He went to Harley Street to see a neurological specialist. When he got his diagnosis he said: ‘thank you very much’ then asked: ‘how much do I owe you?’ He nearly passed out when the doctor said £300 and that was at least 20 years ago. He said he never got over paying £300 only to be told he had progressive MS.

The last memorable conversation I had with John was to do with his (non-nuclear) 'red button'. John lived independently in a block of flats, with his Dad living in the same block just a couple of doors away along the corridor. His sister lived nearby also. One night, whilst in bed sleeping, he spasmed so fiercely he ended up head down behind his headboard. He felt fine but, struggle as he may, whatever he tried he simply couldn't get out of his self-engineered man trap. So he pressed his red call button. It called up his Dad first - no reply. Then he dialed his sister - no reply. The call button then automatically called an ambulance.

The ambulance crew arrived with the fire brigade who broke his door open. The commotion caused John's Dad to wake up and he went to see what all the racket was about. John had suffered no injuries and was safely returned to his wheelchair to recover. The ambulance crew said things were very quiet, with no calls to go to, so would Dad like a cup of tea? The paramedic handed him a scalding hot cup of tea which John promptly dropped in his lap plum on his 'privates'. He had to be rushed to hospital for serious burns, right where you wouldn't want them. That tale made us laugh till we cried, after we'd had a few drinks (of course).

John is no longer with us but he did two great things for me. I can have a wry smile to myself remembering some of our antics and he nagged me endlessly to learn yoga which I finally did and it did indeed transform my life for the better. Cheers John - you're never more than a thought away.

Penny Stevens

Secondary Progressive MS

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