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How Fabienne helped Charlotte Demand More from life with MS

Charlotte Tourmente

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24.08.18

From my perspective

On the morning of 5 December 2010, I fell to the floor when getting out of bed. The right side of my body no longer responded; I was paralysed on one side. I nevertheless had enough strength (the paralysis would worsen over the upcoming days) to drag myself into the living room and grab my phone. I alerted my neurologist by text to the relapse and asked for an emergency appointment. When I called my sisters, I discovered that I had trouble recalling words and had to search for the ones I wanted. It was the beginning of what neurologists call aphasia and it would be much more distressing than the paralysis (I was convinced that I would walk again one day no matter how long or hard it would be). I experienced the worst moment of my life when, once in the hospital, the intern asked me to name ten animals. I managed finally to say “cat” (many thanks to the feline who has shared my life for 13 years), followed by “dog”… and then I drew a total blank. I couldn’t think of a single other animal! When finally alone, I started to sob. It was the only night when I broke down and let out all the panic, anger and sadness caused by this horrific situation.

It was then that I decided to finally act on a dream that I had harboured for several months, to train as a sexologist. Until then, I had hesitated as I knew it would mean working on weekends and would result in more pain and fatigue. It would inevitably mean cutting back on my social life and I wasn’t ready for the sacrifice. Besides, I was comfortable in my current routine: I was finally fairly satisfied with the balance between my work and personal life; I no longer had to “push” myself and I didn’t want any more challenges (I only came to this conclusion in hindsight, I hadn’t realised it at first). I also worried about not being able to successfully manage the training since my memory was decidedly less efficient than it had been during my medical studies.

But the aphasia meant that I had to stimulate my neurones, which were clearly in a dreadful state! This symptom lasted 12 long days before spontaneously abating and finally disappearing with treatment. Rehab would last two and one-half months, but I remained steadfast in my plan and went on to train for 3 years.

My good fairy Fabienne

Fabienne was the young woman who made my dream come true. Along with her husband, Jean-Claude, she was in charge of a psycho-sexology programme. I had contacted her two months earlier when looking at various training courses. Before this severe relapse, she had already known that I had certain constraints because of an illness, but I had never gone into any detail.

When I called Fabienne, she was very reassuring: her cheerful, positive tone made me think I might actually fulfil my dream, despite the MS. She is the person who convinced me that it was indeed possible and that I was perfectly capable of handling it! She reassured me about adapting the training to my health condition, in particular, by emailing coursework and accepting certain absences during the end-of-year work placement (because of fatigue, I am physically unable to make it through an entire day, whether it be at work or on holiday). Her thoughtfulness did me a world of good as she repeatedly told me not to worry and to devote my strength to my rehabilitation, which I finally finished in mid-February. She promised she would always find a solution! Thanks to her, I was encouraged about being able to fulfil my dream of training in sexology.

Once back in Paris, another relapse put me back in hospital, but as it was much less severe this time, I was in a day clinic. Through all those months, Fabienne was extremely understanding and encouraged me to put my health ahead of my classes, which I admit had been placed temporarily on the sidelines. But inwardly, I was seething at potentially having to postpone my goals, with the first-year examinations scheduled to take place at the end of June. Fortunately, I was able to take a sabbatical for several months, so I had the time to rest before carrying on with my coursework.

GZEMEA.MS.18.07.0186a

Date of Approval: August 2018

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