The Descent by Dan McIntyre

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The Descent by Dan McIntyre

The Descent By Dan McIntyre Prologue Nothing changed. Nothing external anyway. The various machines kept beeping, performing whatever vital jobs they were designed for. The curtain fluttered slightly in the breeze from an open window somewhere. The elderly man across the ward coughed and stirred in his sleep. Iain noticed all this and then brought his focus back to the Neurologist’s Registrar sitting on the bed with him. The Registrar had just given Iain a diagnosis. “It’s Conversion Disorder, a mental illness.” Iain sat and stared straight through the Registrar, the words echoing through his head, seemingly looking for somewhere to stick. To take root and make sense. The Registrar continued, “We’re discharging you now and will be referring you to Psychiatry. We believe that your physical disability is being caused by a psychiatric problem which needs addressing.” Iain was numb with disbelief. A Psychiatric problem? All the pain, the fatigue, falling over. All caused by a Psychiatric problem? That couldn’t be right. Could it?

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The Descent by Dan McIntyre

Chapter 1 The desk was a solid sheet of wood attached to strong steel legs. A heavy duty piece of furniture, well designed and of sturdy construction. It did nothing to cushion the blow as Iain fell to the floor, his head hitting the desk on the way. At 29 years old, Iain was young and carefree. Having recently split from his Fiancee and moved out into his own flat he was enjoying a greater amount of freedom in his life. Of course he still had to go to work everyday, but then he enjoyed his work in IT Support. He’d been working first line helpdesks for around 10 years and wasn’t particularly looking to progress from that – he was happy just where he was. Iain lay on the floor for a moment, gave out a moan and put a hand to his head. He felt as though he’d been hit by a hammer. Janet came around the bank of desks and helped Iain into a chair. “Now then” she admonished, “and this is you that says you don’t need to see the Doctor!” Iain mumbled something unintelligible and put his head down. Janet continued, “Right, I want you to make an appointment and see your Doctor ASAP.” Iain nodded “See that you do young man!” Janet warned. Iain nodded again. Janet was the “Mother Hen” of the team. In her late 40s she was that bit older than the rest and looked after them all while they were at work. She could be comforting, helpful and reassuring but could also be stern when necessary.

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The Descent by Dan McIntyre

Iain left and drove home, his head throbbing. Arriving at home he called his Doctor, made an appointment for the next day, called his manager, Ann, to let her know he would be late the next day and asked Ann to let Janet know. Then he got undressed and got into bed. Laying in his bed Iain thought about recent events. He had been stumbling and falling a lot more recently and was having problems with his speech from time to time. He cried a little as he wondered what was going on with his body and then drifted off to sleep. Next morning Iain woke and got ready to visit the Doctor. Iain was the type of person to avoid visiting the Doctor as much as possible, he had to be really ill before he went. He felt nervous. What was he going to say? Would the Doctor think him crazy? It sounded crazy enough to him when he thought about it. At the Doctors Iain explained the problems he was having and the Doctor listened intently. When Iain had finished the Doctor advised that he would refer him for an MRI scan and also refer him to see a Neurologist. Iain left, amazed. The Doctor had taken him seriously and was doing something about it. Back home Iain got online and started Googling using terms such as MRI scan, trying to find out all he could about them. He knew it involved being placed inside a large machine but wasn’t sure exactly what to expect and wanted to find people who had had similar experiences. The first hit from the Google search was for the MS Society. Iain followed the link to an information leaflet about MRI scans. This was useful but still not as good as personal experience. The website included a message board where lots of people, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, with MS posted messages of support and help and questions to each other. This seemed more like it Iain thought. Quickly registering to post and then writing a quick message explaining the situation Iain posted to the board and then waited.

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The Descent by Dan McIntyre

Just 20 minutes later a personal message came through to Iain from the message board. It was from a lady called Yvonne who said she lived locally with her Husband and kids. Iain replied saying “Hi” and thanking Yvonne for the message, before heading off to bed. Sitting at her own computer Yvonne was listening to R Kelly on the headphones attached to the computer. It was getting late and she was thinking of heading off to bed herself but she knew her Husband, Chris, would try to have sex with her if she did. At 30 years old, with 3 children Yvonne sometimes wondered what had become of her life and how she’d arrived here. Her whole life seemed to be devoted to the children and her husband, to their needs and desires and no thought of her own. She loved the children dearly, more than anything else in the world, but wished that occasionally she could be free again, just to be herself. Yvonne gave out a sigh and yawned. She had been reading posts on the MS Society’s message board and had replied to a few, just catching up with friends. Then she had come across the post from a new member, Iain. He seemed to be worried about an MRI scan that he was due to have shortly. She had sent him a quick personal message saying that she was local and he was welcome to chat if he felt it would help. He had replied with a thank you. Shutting down the computer Yvonne stood up and looked at her husband sat on the living room floor, 4 pack of lager and ashtray beside him. She wondered, did she want to have sex tonight? No, she was way too tired and had to be up in the morning for work. “I’m off to bed” Yvonne said to Chris. “Night” he responded, barely taking his eyes off the TV. Yvonne shrugged and, leaving the room, headed up the stairs. Her MS was mild compared to what some people had to put up with, but it still gave her strange sensations in her body from

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The Descent by Dan McIntyre

time to time and the associated fatigue was horrendous. She was asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. Iain woke next morning feeling nervous and nauseous. It was the day of his scan and he still didn’t fully know what to expect. Climbing out of bed Iain stumbled to the bathroom and showered. “At least I had the foresight to iron my clothes last night” he thought. While getting dressed he texted his ex girlfriend Joanne, who had agreed to take him to the hospital. Thirty minutes later he was dressed and, having had no reply from Joanne, he set off to walk to the hospital, which was around quarter of a mile away. His walk was unsteady and by the time he got to the playing field on the way his legs felt like jelly and he needed a rest. Sitting down on a low wall he spotted Joanne’s car coming round the corner. Iain waved but Joanne was concentrating on the road and didn’t see him. He called her and when she answered told her where he was. She quickly came back and he got in the car, grateful of the soft seat. “Morning” Joanne said as she turned the car around and headed back to the hospital. “Morning” replied Iain, “I had to set off I didn’t know if you were coming.” “I said I would!” She shot back, annoyed at the thought she wouldn’t turn up. Joanne drove the rest of the way in silence. Arriving at the hospital she parked and helped Iain get out of the car and held him steady as they walked across the car park. Once inside they headed for the Blue desk, which seemed to Iain to be a 20 mile trek. He was shaking like a leaf once they arrived.

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The Descent by Dan McIntyre

Iain was led into a waiting room with a wall of lockers for personal possessions. Placing his keys and glasses in Joanne’s handbag he sat and looked around nervously, there were only a couple other people in the waiting room who seemed to be doing pretty much the same. A nurse handed Iain a questionnaire to complete. It asked about things like pacemakers and iron filings in eyes, any metal in the body, that kind of thing. Iain answered the questions and returned the sheet to the nurse. Thankfully there was no need for him to change into one of those hospital gowns that leaves your back bare as he had no metal zips or buttons in his clothing, which wasn’t accidental – he had deliberately chosen a pair of jogging pants with a drawstring waist and a long sleeved t-shirt for today. After what seemed an eternity but was probably just a few minutes another nurse came and led Iain into the scanning room. Joanne locked her bag in a locker and followed. Looking at the scanner Iain felt faint, he had gone pale and backed up against the door to the room. Joanne saw this and held his hand, softly telling him it was OK. Iain relaxed a little and the radiographer told him what to do, which didn’t amount to much – lie down on the table and keep still. Iain laid down and the radiographer placed a pair of headphones on him before placing a cage over his head. Iain fought against the panic rising within him. His claustrophobia was telling him he needed to get that cage off but he remained still as the table was raised and placed at the entrance to the machine. Joanne squeezed his hand, knowing he was worried. In his other hand was a panic button. The radiographer had told him if he needed to stop for any reason whatsoever just to press it and he would be removed from the machine. Iain vowed not to use that button. The radiographer told him to close his eyes and as he was placed into the machine a laser scanned his face. Then he was in and the table stopped moving. Iain knew Joanne was still
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The Descent by Dan McIntyre

in the room as still held his hand. The radiographer spoke to him through the headphones, “You’re doing great Iain, we’re about to begin and you can open your eyes again if you want. I’ve got your CD here and I’ll pop it on in a moment. Please try to remain as still as possible and we should have you out of there in about half an hour.” Iain opened his eyes and instantly wished he hadn’t. The machine seemed to press in at him. He was in a tiny tunnel and could see nothing except the bars of the cage over his head and the walls of the tunnel about an inch away from his face. Inside his body was a turmoil but outside he stayed as still as possible. He had been moved further into the scanner and Joanne could no longer reach his hand so she had hold of his ankle instead. Dolly Parton’s voice came through the headphones, singing about starting over again. Iain concentrated on the words and blocked out the sound of the scanner as it got to work around him. It buzzed, banged and hummed loudly but Iain was singing along in his head and the scan seemed to be over in moments. Iain and Joanne gathered their things and left. Heading back to Mirfield they called at a small café where Joanne bought lunch for them both.

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