A good belly laugh is a tonic, and can even lift the depression that hits MS sufferers.  I used to think, Well, of course anyone with multiple sclerosis would be depressed, who wouldn’t be depressed with that slow insidious disability taking over your body?  But since then, I have learned that it is actually part of the condition — again, nobody knows why, like so much in MS — and depression is invariably much worse in people with multiple sclerosis than in people with equivalent but different debilitating conditions.  So it really is a part of the condition, not a result of the condition.

There is actually a joke site specially for multiple sclerosis!  http://www.shof.msrcsites.co.uk/index.html

And friends send me emails in the hope that I will read them to Don and give him the tonic of the belly laugh that I mentioned.  Here is the latest I received — yes, I had heard most of them before, but I still laughed out loud, and so did Don.

These are from a book called ‘Disorder in the American Courts’ and are things that people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and now published by court reporters who had the torment of staying calm while these experiences were actually taking place.
Attorney:  What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
Witness:  Gucci Sweats and Reeboks.
Attorney:  This Myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory?
Witness:  Yes.
Attorney:  And in what ways does it affect your memory?
Witness:  I forget.
Attorney:  You forget?  Can you give us an example of something you forgot?
Attorney:  What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?
Witness:  He said, “Where am I Cathy?”
Attorney:  And why did that upset you?
Witness:  My name is Susan!
Attorney:  Your youngest son, the twenty-one-year-old.  How old is he?
Witness:  Uh. He’s twenty-one.
Attorney:  Were you present when your picture was taken?
Witness:  You’re kidding me, right?
Attorney:  She had three children, Is that correct?
Witness:  Yes.
Attorney:  How many were boys?
Witness:  None
Attorney:  Were there any girls?
Witness:  Are you serious?  Your honor, I think I need a different attorney.  Can I get a new attorney?
Attorney:  How was you first marriage terminated?
Witness:  By death.
Attorney:  By whose death was it terminated?
Witness:  Now whose death do you suppose terminated it?
Attorney:  Can you describe the individual?
Witness:  He was about medium height and had a beard.
Attorney:  Was this male of female?
Witness:  Guess.
Attorney:  Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
Witness:  Huh…Are you qualified to ask that question?
Attorney:  All your responses MUST be oral, OK?  What school did you go to?
Witness:  Oral.
Attorney:  Do you recall the time you examined the body?
Witness:  The autopsy started around 8.30am.
Attorney:  And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
Witness:  No. He was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy on him.
Attorney:  Now doctor, isn’t it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn’t know anything about it until the next morning?
Witness:  Did you actually pass the bar exam?
….And the best for last
Attorney:  Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check the pulse?
Witness:  No.
Attorney:  Did you check for blood pressure.
Witness:  No.
Attorney:  Did you check for breathing?
Witness.  No.
Attorney:  So then, is it possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
Witness   No.
Attorney:  How can you be sure, Doctor? 
Witness:  Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a bottle.
Attorney:  I see, but could the patient have still be alive, nevertheless?
Witness:  Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practising law!

Birthday Cards

When you turn 68 you don’t really expect anyone to make a fuss.  After all, it’s not something with a Big-O at the end.  But when I turned up at the hospital to bring him home for the day, the nurses were milling around full of good wishes, and people called out “Happy birthday!” from deep in various wards as we passed.

Better than presents (a new t-shirt to wear home for the day, a talking book) were the phone calls, of which there were several once we got home — made him feel loved and missed  —  and the birthday cards.  I had to read them more than once.  All right, they are pretty corny I admit, but here they are:

“Happy birthday Don!!  Remember the perks of being another year older today…
    *  Kidnappers are not very interested in you
    *  In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first
    *  No one expects you to run — anywhere
    *  People call at 8 pm and ask “Did I wake you?”
    *  People no longer view you as a hypochondriac
    *  There is nothing left to learn “the hard way”
    *  Things you buy now won’t wear out
    *  You can eat dinner at 4 pm
    *  You can live without sex but not your glasses
    *  You get into heated arguments about pension plans
    *  You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge
    *  You sing along with elevator music
    *  You quit tying to hold your stomach in, no matter who walks into the room
    *  Your eyes won’t get much worse
    *  Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off
    *  Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can’t remember them either
    *  Your supply of brain cells is finally down to manageable size
    *  You can’t remember who sent you this list”

And a card with some recycled computer jokes that still made us laugh:

“Life before the computer:
    *  Memory  was something that you lost with age
    *  A website was a spider’s home
    *  A hard drive was a long trip on the road
    *  And if you had a 3 1/2 inch floppy you just hoped nobody found out!”

… and a message that brought a lump to my throat:  “To Don, dear old friend, up against it these days” — up against it, a favourite phrase of Don’s in his prayers of intercession and elsewhere — “trusting that you will find ways to savour and delight in the gifts and opportunities God will yet provide … Much love …”

A happy day indeed.  And now we have family visiting for the weekend so this birthday is becoming an extended one.

Healing Laughter

Don has been moved into another ward.  He was being driven demented by a door that banged constantly (the Treatment Room, whatever that is, but is obviously used all the time, and all night long).  When I located him in his new room, he glared and said, “They moved me because they didn’t want headlines NURSES MURDERED DUE TO BANGING DOOR  –  that’s a headline that would grab attention.”

Glen, a visitor at the next bed, looked up and said, “Oh I’ve heard better headlines than that:  What about the one that said MINERS REFUSE TO WORK AFTER DEATH.”  Don laughed, and to my surprise, so did a quiet girl who had been visiting her grandfather for long periods every day.  She chimed in on the conversation to make her contribution: “What about NEW STUDY OF OBESITY LOOKS FOR LARGER TEST GROUP, and the other one I remember is IRAQI HEAD SEEKS ARMS.”

Don threw his head back and laughed until he slapped the bedspread.  Eventually he subsided, and after a while he asked me to read the paper to him.

I read the headlines of the Sydney Morning Herald and gave the gist of stories on the front page, then turned, as I always do, to the quirky bits on the back page.  Amazingly, there was a a par on crazy headlines.  I turned to the girl who had said “Iraqi Head Seeks Arms”, and said, “Here’s a follow up one for you:  HEADLESS BODY FOUND IN TOPLESS BAR”.  Everybody roared, and the girl laughed until tears rolled down her face.

There is a tea room for visitors, and later I found the girl there when I went to make a cup of tea.  She smiled at me and said, “I can’t remember when was the last time I laughed.  I live with my grandad, and he’s dying of lung cancer.  I haven’t laughed in so long, I feel better right now than I’ve felt in literally weeks.”

Laughter the healing medicine, indeed.