The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system made up of a network of 24 satellites placed into orbit by the U.S. Department of Defense. GPS was originally intended for military applications, but in the 1980s, the government made the system available for civilian use. GPS works in any weather conditions, anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day. GPS satellites circle the earth twice a day in a very precise orbit and transmit signal information to earth. GPS receivers take this information and use triangulation to calculate the user's exact location.
Like most MS patients my “GPS” system is faulty. Not only do I often no know which direction I am going, I don’t have the navigation capability to change it. Once I start leaning in a direction I just keep going in that direction without the ability to alter my course.
The brain signals with MS get short-circuited. Instead of my brain telling my hand to move, it goes to my elbow (or wherever) and my hand just sits there. Instead of telling my left leg to move, it stays planted on the floor and my eye moves. It is one of the really frustrating aspects of MS. Our bodies and our brains are not in sync. In other words we do not have a harmonious relationship between our brains and the rest of our body.
Many people over the years have used the word spastic for many of the actions that happen with MS people. We are often awkward and clumsy. Sometimes this is caused by trying to overcompensate for being off balance. Sometimes this is just the action caused by the brain shooting a message to the wrong part of our body. Although it describes the movement, it is not pleasant to realize that one belongs in that category.
MS patients often walk with a “Frankenstein” movement. We often feel like we are walking on stilts. If you have never tried that, it is difficult and not pretty to watch. There is little grace involved and always a risk of falling. No matter how hard you try, no amount of practice can make it any more graceful. Since one of our biggest fears is falling (again!), we often have a tense look on our faces to go along with the walk.
Yes, most of us with MS have a faulty GPS system. That’s OK; we get to visit places most of you only wonder about…….though often not on purpose!! J