Bob

Diagnosis: Transverse Myelitis

Texas, United States

I was born in 1943 without the lower portion of my left arm from just below the elbow. Growing up, this fact never seemed to bother me all that much. I got used to the stares from people. Unbeknownst to me, since I never had that part of my arm, I grew up doing what others at my age did, learned how to do what came naturally. I never thought of my limitations as compared to other “fully able-bodied kids.” I played baseball with only one arm and maintained a very high batting average and could catch and throw the ball as good as anyone else. I made the All-stars! To me, I was just a normal kid, and knew no difference. I had to do chores the same as my older brother with no special considerations being given. I worked my way through college and ultimately obtained a law degree. I never thought I was any different from anyone else, mostly thanks to my parents for not treating me differently. So, I went through life never thinking about not having my left arm. How can you miss something you never had in the first place? I hunted and fished and enjoyed life like anyone else, and was driving a car at age 14.

At age 52, I was brushing my teeth one morning and dropped my toothbrush. I discovered I was unable to pick it up because my “good arm” was not wanting to work for me. My wife drove me to the hospital ER and they had no idea what was wrong, even with MRIs, CT scans and X-rays. Later that evening, I noticed I was limping favoring my left leg and had a difficult time urinating. I was kept for observation and later that night, I awoke with extreme pain in my sternum and both arms and was given Darvocet for pain. I woke up the next morning not being able to move and needed to urinate, but could not. My wife called a doctor friend of hers and he referred her to a neurologist who came to see me in the hospital. He came to my bedside and told me I had Transverse Myelitis at the T-2 level and suggested I leave the hospital I was in and go to the Houston Medical Center. I did. I was given IV steroids, plasmapheresis seven times and was informed what Transverse Myelitis is and that I was paralyzed from the chest down.

After 30 days in the hospital, I was admitted to intense rehabilitation for 90 days and told by the neurologist that I would probably walk out using a hand walker. That never happened and I remain paralyzed from the chest down and use a power wheelchair for mobility. After two years of home therapy on my self-built walking, collapsible, hand rails with leg/ankle braces and electro-stimulation, there was no improvement at all and it has been that way ever since.

For 22 plus years of being paralyzed, together with all the usual associated issues, I realized my having grown up with only one arm allowed me to more easily adapt to my new circumstances and face challenges by resolving hurdles with solutions because I learned how, growing up with one arm. Mostly, I am a survivor of TM due to my loving wife and daughter standing beside me and encouraging me. I feel sad sometimes when my 8-year-old grandson, who used to love to ride in my lap, says he wished I could walk, then I say, “we still have fun, don’t we?”, and we go on having fun playing catch, baseball, fishing or whatever. We do not dwell on it.

My Hopes are too many to list. We are all an inspiration for each other and have our own story to tell. I wish to thank Jim, Pauline and Sandy, Deborah, and Dick and Deanne Gilmur as well as the many-many others, who are too many to list here, that have and are making the TMA what it is today. NEVER LOOK BACK, BUT LOOK FORWARD.


Bob Cook

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