21 May 2013
A few readers, very few, have asked me what’s the true story behind THE WALKING MAN. One reader even emailed me to say he disliked the book because the recovery of Francis was too far fetched.
Well, as often said, the truth is stranger than fiction…
Francis is a combination of yours truly and my uncle. My uncle was quadriplegic for fifty years. Not joking. Fifty years. He started losing his ability to move at age 16 then, as far as I understand, an operation to save him left him motionless for life. He lived in a county hospital. To me, it was a scary place. I visited my uncle weekly. He had a roommate named Arthur who controlled the TV because he could move one of his hands. The Tom and Jerry battle from THE WALKING MAN is true.
Regarding the recovery of Francis, my uncle never recovered from being paralyzed, but I did.
I have a very rare disease that wiped me out a several years ago. It’s called Generalized Myasthenia Gravis. It’s an autoimmune disease. It causes paralysis after muscle use. This means after exercise, such as walking, my legs and arms would fail. Rest would promote short-term recovery, but in my case, over time, recovery lagged and eventually I needed a mobility scooter to “walk” ten yards. FYI, everybody should own a mobility scooter. They’re great fun.
I was never quadriplegic, but I understand it better than most folks do.
Eventually my doctors were confident the Myasthenia Gravis was impacting my lungs, so they wanted me to go on chemo, but I refused. I was told I would soon need a respirator to live and my life was going to “suck.” Instead of the chemo treatment. I started looking for triggers. I figured something was causing my condition. So, I became a vegetarian, stopped drinking Diet Coke, and avoided all known allergens. Gradually I got better. Now, my Myasthenia Gravis is in full remission. I’m 53 and never been healthier.
In the end, I could never quite figure out what caused my temporary paralysis, but I blame the Diet Coke…for it makes for a good story.