Christina O’Halloran

Diagnosis: Transverse Myelitis

New Hampshire, United States

It was an ordinary night in August 2017. I went to bed as usual and had, what I thought, was a good night’s sleep. The next morning, I woke up with the intention of starting my morning routine. Within seconds of swinging my legs off the bed to stand I felt an excruciating pain in my back. I ignored the pain and told myself “I’ve had muscle spasms before in my back and I can get through this one.” Not even five minutes into my routine the pain was so bad I found myself on my knees. By this time the pain was engulfing my entire torso, and my legs were getting weaker by the second. The pain was so bad that my breathing became labored and I needed to call for an ambulance.

Within the next hour, I was at the emergency room at my local hospital. Unfortunately, the emergency room doctor did not seem to understand how weak I was and thought I was faking when I told him I couldn’t stand. He called for the physical therapist on duty that morning and she became my saving grace. Before I knew it, I was being examined by a neurologist summoned by the physical therapist, and I was admitted into a private room. The next morning started with a round of tests including an MRI, lumbar puncture, and blood work. Before the day was finished I had total paralysis from the waist down and was almost completely dependent on the nurses and aides. Everything was happening so fast I did not have time to be scared. By late afternoon, the neurologist said I have a rare auto-immune disorder. I was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis. He called it idiopathic because there is no known reason why I have it other than my immune system attacked my spinal cord.

I was treated at the local hospital for 7 days and then transferred to a rehabilitation center to recover some strength with the hope that I would walk again. It took extensive physical therapy, and I went from using a wheelchair, then a walker, to a cane, and now completely unassisted. So, yes, I am walking again, but the pain and discomfort continue day after day as I battle with my own body. The lesion on my spinal cord from TM left nerve damage that has not repaired itself. I fall asleep every night to burning and tingling in my legs. Every day is a battle with extreme fatigue, I have bladder and bowel issues, and I stumble when I walk. So even though, in the blink of an eye, my life changed and now every day is a new battle, I am one of the lucky ones that recovered the ability to walk. This is my new normal and I have the strength to accept it.

Christina O’Halloran