Personal Views

Saddam strikes in the wrong postal district

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.312.7029.516 (Published 24 February 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:516
  1. Charles Anderson

    My fingers suddenly stopped doing what I wanted them to do, my hands were floating aimlessly above the keyboard like two pink fish. To save the computer file I needed to press two keys simultaneously with a practised flick. But now manoeuvring two fingers into the right place at the right time took a couple of minutes. I was worried and got up to go to a telephone. My legs refused commands, they kept splaying sideways. My body had suddenly changed from seamless partner into a spastic encumbrance. My brain remained strangely distant, cranking slowly but clearly. Without warning, in the prime of life, it reasoned, I had been smitten with an advanced motor neuron disease.

    While my mind conducted this analysis my body craved air, and it urged me towards the front door. Suddenly the floor tiles appeared in close-up before my nose. I laboured to the door on my elbows, leant up to wrench it open, and fell flat on the threshold in the blast of wintry air. I lost sphincter control, my bowels squirted, and I peed a little too. My mind reasoned that I had to get to a telephone.

    My fingers were mittens. It was a modern telephone with push buttons and I realised that I could never have spun a dial correctly. I was calling a close friend, a general practitioner who was on call that night but in a village 65 km away. I could speak only by gasping in short bursts. “I think I'm dying,” I said. She could not diagnose my symptoms, but told me to dial 999.

    The doorbell rang almost at once and this time I was able to lumber to the door without crawling. My friend had called my next …

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