Dr. Robert Grimm, my first real neurologist stateside, had some advice for me: don’t deal with the MS Society, the Swank diet is nonsense (more on that in a different post), and keep your weight reasonable (it will help if the MS advances). Bob, as I fondly knew him, practiced 2 hours away from where I lived, but I didn’t mind the drive. I went to him after the initial MRI and diagnosis from the MD I saw where I resided because it was necessary and prudent to know the reason for my neurological symptoms ASAP. I went to Bob the following day, MRI films and medical records in hand, to confirm the diagnosis and do the proper testing. The first thing he did was to call the neurologist that had given me the diagnosis to chew him a new orifice. The films were underdeveloped, and worse, you NEVER give anyone such a diagnosis when there is so much additional testing to be considered and so much at stake. His wife also had MS, and he was well aware of what such a diagnosis can do. Good luck removing it from a medical record even if it is incorrect. You’ll never get insurance again.

Bob was the neurologist who informed me, after reading my military medical records, that I could have been diagnosed with MS in Guam, 11 years previous.

He knew my background, and I told him gruesome stories of watching spinal taps and the resulting fluid. When he did mine, he washed my back which he said he did for all of his patients (I have no doubt of the validity of his claim), and he laughingly produced the vial with clear spinal fluid in front of my face as I was still curled up on my side. He was infectious; I was so happy that I, too, giggled. I was tested for everything imaginable.

As I previously mentioned in 1979 I was working with human tissue with no protection because nobody thought anything better of it. It was the beginning of AIDS and a tropical location with all sorts of exposure to any number of known and possibly unknown “interesting” infectious agents. I worked in the hospital morgue when we were looking into the anatomy of this puzzle , the bacteriology lab, and the emergency room. I was exposed to everything anybody carried–be they dead or alive. We did testing for all the dignitaries and travelers (saw lots of venereal disease), the CDC came to confiscate my malaria slides (it was a really nice smear, too), did phlebotomy rounds in the hospital (drew blood from a woman with TB–I didn’t know it until her blood culture produced it), used a microtome to cut human tissue for slides, will NEVER be able to deal with worms of any sort again, and we didn’t wear masks or gloves. Ever.

Amazingly my tests all came back negative. Bob said I had markers in my spinal fluid which indicated it “could” be MS, but it was the mildest case he’d ever seen. Given the MRI, spinal fluid, nerve conduction, optic neuritis episode, and neurological exam, it was concluded MS was indeed the answer.

Whenever I went to see him, he drew me little sketches of spinal cord cross sections and brain maps. Each question of mine was also a quiz. He made it bearable, and he related to me in the manner he knew I was most comfortable with. I’m sure he didn’t quiz most of his patients on sensory and motor tracts in the spinal cord, but I certainly appreciated it.

He also did bird calls for me—for no particular reason other than to share something other than my neurological condition, I believe. He said his father had not approved so he had become proficient at perfecting his winged-friend’s calls. He always made me laugh.

He was also responsible for getting me on Betaseron before it was approved by the FDA. I was giddy. I had read the original papers in the journal Neurology (I believe) at the hospital library. The science looked good, and this was the first drug to actually be considered to successfully ameliorate the progression of MS.

He was an amazing doctor and a phenomenal advocate. I sent him a card years after I had moved away just to let him know that I was well. I heard about his passing from a dear friend. It saddened me greatly, but I was also honored to have been his patient.

I have many fond memories of you, Bob. I will always be grateful.

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