David Hilliard

Diagnosis: Transverse Myelitis

California, United States

In 1993, I was afflicted by Transverse Myelitis (TM). I was working as a residential alarm installer, and I was in the middle of installing an alarm system at someone’s residence. As I was drilling a hole, I felt tingling in both of my feet and up to my shins. It felt cold. I thought I was having an anxiety attack. I then noticed the tingling and coldness was moving up to my thighs and waist.

I called the advice nurse, and she agreed I was having an anxiety attack and if it didn’t get better in fifteen minutes, then I should go to the emergency room (ER). After hanging up the phone, I realized I was having difficulty walking. I asked my co-worker to drive me to the ER, and I dragged my feet to the car. It felt like I had cement blocks on my feet. During the 10-15 minute ride to the ER, the tingling was moving up to my chest, and I started to notice numbness from my chest down.

When we got to the ER, a nurse came out and I told her I couldn’t get out of the car, so she lifted me up and carried me into the hospital. They set me on a bed and I felt like I had to pee, so I jumped off to go to the bathroom and fell to floor. They picked me up and put me back on the bed. I then tried to use a urinal and couldn’t go. It was at that moment that I knew something was really wrong.

I was in the hospital for seven days while they did MRIs, blood work and a spinal tap. After three days, I was diagnosed with TM. After seven days, I left the hospital and started rehabilitation. For the next four months, I used a wheelchair and taught myself how to stand and walk again. After four months, I was able to walk somewhat but also used a cane for the next seven months.

I went back to school for computers and networking, and I’ve now worked for the same company for almost twenty-five years. I feel very fortunate as I can do a lot of things. I still struggle with the effects of TM, but I try to have gratitude and stay grateful for what I do have. Having a full-time job has been very challenging at times, but I have a great support system around me at work and home.

If I have learned anything from this experience, it is that you can overcome anything with the right attitude, perspective and love. Is it always perfect? Not even close, but I try to face each day with gratitude, and that carries me through. I just want to say to the newly diagnosed: you are not alone and you are loved. Reach out for help, and it’s OK to ask for help. Love to all.

David Hilliard