My Journey with Covid and MS by Lise Elsliger

MS and Covid medical renderings

My journey through my disability has been a long one although an interesting and enriching one also. I have suffered from MS and mental health problems for most of my adult life but recently an interesting twist was added to my experience. I also suffered from Covid.

I’ve had what you’d call an interesting life. Not only have I had to deal with the stigma related to mental health for quite a long time, I also had to suffer from a physical disability along with it, multiple sclerosis. Nice combination. I’m by nature a happy person so I’ve dealt with both very well. Practicing Buddhism has helped as well. I’ve also had an active life despite my disability. I worked as a journalist for a while and managed a Community Access Center in Moncton. I taught Microsoft courses for the government. After that I volunteered:  as a media relations officer for a local mental health organization during their yearly fundraiser and as a recreation’s person at the Georges Dumont Hospital with elderly people. Now at the age of 56 I’m pretty much retired. But I’ve had a happy life until my experience with covid.

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It all started nearly 30 years ago when I was 28 and was adoring my job as a communication officer for the department of health for the N.-B. government. It was my dream job. But I had to leave it suddenly when I went into a chronic depression which I’ve suffered since then. I am treated now however and don’t feel depressed most of the time.  I do suffer from anxiety however. A few years after that, in my early thirties, when I had moved from Fredericton to Moncton to live with my parents I found out I have multiple sclerosis on top of that. The fact is that there are approximately 100,000 Canadians who suffer from MS and one out eight Canadians who suffer from depression. I am one of those myself.

The fact is that I am a happy person nevertheless. First of all, I am completely mobile and am happy for that, I don’t have a physical disability yet. I’m on meds that control my MS. I also practice Buddhism. I also have a good psychiatrist and a neurologist. I feel blessed most of the time.

I was the happiest person until mid February 2022 when I caught covid. I have a poor immune system in the first place because of my ms. I was terrified for the first time in my life when the test turned out positive for covid. I was scared to death for a few days. You see, I’ve been living in a senior’s home for the last five years because I am fully subsidised by the government here. All the residents including myself were fully vaccinated. I saw a lot of people around me catch covid and it was a milder case than mine. Staff members here and residents. No deaths.

The first thing I did when I found out I had covid was call my mother. She’s my support system in general and told her: “Maman, I have covid.” She couldn’t believe it and was scared too. We were right in the middle of a wave in the news of people in senior’s homes dying from covid. I then contacted my neurologist and he told me that there were special pills for people with a poor immune system who had covid and I had to contact my family doctor. I called her and she put me on a puffer and Nasonex. I was congested both in my lungs and my nose and had a terrible soar throat that kept me awake at night. I felt terrible. It didn’t feel like a slight flu. She told me if I got worse not to call again but to go directly to the hospital. Luckily for me, after four days I was feeling better and started healing after that. Boy was it frightening though. I had felt really sick.

 The funny thing about it is that it changed my life for the better. I almost felt like I had had a near death experience. I am so thankful for everything on life right now, starting with my family and friends, who had supported me so much. My brother who works as a scientist in San Diego California called me every day. Buddhists believe in compassion and loving kindness more than anything in life. Now I will be able to practice these principles for the rest of my life without the fear of death. My family call me their covid hero. We’ve been on lockdown in this residence almost all the time since Christmas. We can’t leave the residence at all because there are still cases in the residence.

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You might be wondering what I do with my time when I’m on lockdown. I meditate a lot and have come to be reflective of life. I know this will end eventually. I try to practice compassion and loving kindness to the residents around me. It’s not easy because I’m fed up being locked in myself. But I try my best. As for my mental health problems. I’m on good meds. I’m not depressed at all although I suffer from anxiety. Not much I can do about it. I just learn to live with it. I know it will diminish when there is less covid around us.

I’m still happy and functioning well despite my illness—mostly because I refuse to give up and have a great support from the medical community and my family and friends.

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