I was waiting in the drive through line at Chick-fil-A today and watched an unusual event. A gentleman was driving his automatic wheelchair down the ramp from his white van. His wife was standing close by watching. He started getting very close to the edge of the ramp and I thought to myself, “He is going to fall off that ramp”. Before I even finished the thought he did just that and he and the chair both fell on their sides in the parking lot. I put my car in park pretty fast and heard the engine drop (my husband will not be happy about this) and attempted to run towards him which was more like a shuffle. Too bad the parking lot didn’t need to be swept at the time (see, I was having a bad MS day as I like to call it). He was very calm and his wife ran towards Chick-fil-A for help. She did not even reach the doors before people were running from everywhere to help. Some strong younger men set the chair upright and then helped pick him up and got him settled in his seat base. Both he and his wife were very blasé about it but thankful and appreciative of all the helpers. She said she thought they should go home and he said “NO, I have not eaten here in over a week and I am here now.” I told him he should ask for dessert today and I bet she would let him have it. They continued into the restaurant.
I parked my car and decided I would go in to get my order. I grabbed my cane to make sure I did not end up in the parking lot as well. I was in line two positions behind the wife. She saw my cane and said that I probably should not have tried to help if I was hurt too. I said, “I am not hurt I have multiple sclerosis and have problems with my balance. It is usually me that people are picking up so I was glad to help someone else.” She then said, “My husband Oliver has MS.” I was trying to decide if I was a little upset because that might be my fate or if I was going to find a fellow comrade in the fight against MS. After I got my to-go bag I went to their table and introduced myself to “Mr. Oliver”. He was not as talkative as his wife but he was also enjoying his sandwich.
His wife told me about a facility that she takes her husband to that offers clinical research and seminars. There is a MS support group in a neighboring town that she found very helpful. She asked for my email address and promised to send some information and links to me. She did tell me one bit of information that hit a little close to home. She said, “If we had it to do over again, I would have made him use the cane, then walker, and wheelchair earlier. He used a lot of his energy walking and we could have done other things if he had more energy.” I personally have sometimes been reluctant to use my cane because people stare when I use it; they also stare when I fall so I guess I could save my body a few bruises from falls.
I got home later and thought about everything that happened and remembered that every patient reacts differently to Multiple Sclerosis. Oliver was at least 25-30 years older than I am. Medicine and research has come a long way. My MS progression seems to be at a slower pace so I can take my time getting my “turbo” wheelchair. If I find myself in a wheelchair, I believe I will follow in Mr. Oliver’s tracks and go get a sandwich at Chick-fil-A meal every week and I will most definitely get a milkshake as well.
To all the “Oliver’s” out there, and the “Oliver’s” to come, I will meet you at Chick-fil-A every week.