How an MS Life Hack Helped Me and My Child

Jamie Tripp Utitus
Written by
Jamie Tripp Utitus

If you are confused about the term “life hack,” you’re not alone. Quite a few people have asked me what that means. A life hack is simply something we do to make life a little easier. But while most people view life hacks as fun ways to express creativity, the term for those of us living with MS is a bit more serious. Life hacking for us is a necessity, an adaptation that is required for survival. These are not just tips; they are ways of surviving and navigating our world with multiple sclerosis.

Many of my own personal life hacks started out with crying and tantrums. Like many people living with MS, my hands don’t work the same way they used to. I can’t grip well and a have a really hard time opening child-proof bottles. One day, during a relapse, I was really suffering, and so was my child. I was alone and my baby needed medicine. But I was unable to open my child’s medicine bottle. It was a very scary and desperate situation, but three things came from it.

First, I met my neighbor. In a panic, I ran over to her house. We’d never met before, but on that day she looked me in the eye, mother-to-mother, and she asked me to hug her. I met this woman that day. She opened that bottle, saw the desperation inside me, and held me. It was a beautiful moment, mother-to-mother.

Two, my friend sent me the coolest gadget that pops open any bottle for me now.

And three, my family now treats every obstacle as a contest of ingenuity. They love helping mommy circumvent or overcome this obstacle with the most mundane, seemingly useless, thing.

So here’s a list of my favorite life-hacking devices that have saved me in many ways. Know that I look forward to hearing yours.

Multi-Grip Twist Cap Opener: My friend sent me this lovely contraption when she heard about my medicine bottle opening debacle. It is a small round plastic device that you place on any child-proof locked bottle and you simply press down, it pops, and voila, it is opened! Check it out here.

One Touch Can Opener: Okay, this was an “As Seen on TV” device, but it really is a life saver. Because MS has compromised my grip (you could probably guess that from the aforementioned problems), using a can opener, the kind you hold and turn and churn is not an option for me. It doesn’t work. Typically the can or the opener flies out of my grasp. Here is one option to check out.

24” Extra Long Shoe Horn: It sounds bizarre, but this thing is like my side kick throughout the day. My right leg is compromised because of spinal lesions. I can’t lift my leg to remove socks or get my jeans on. But this shoe horn saves me when I’m getting dressed. It also works in reverse. Getting skinny jeans off is hard for most people, but it feels impossible with my MS. I sit and use the shoe horn to push the pants over my right leg and then grasp a piece of cloth with it and pull them off. It’s also an excellent back scratcher and reaches for things I cannot reach.

Chunky shades for driving at night: My friend taught me this trick because I was complaining about driving at night. Even with my glasses, there is a glare that seems to shimmer off everything, especially if it is raining. That shimmer often reflects back into my eyes and makes me feel like I am driving with a flashlight in my eyes. So, I wear my grandfather’s old cataract-like glasses over my regular glasses at night. I thought it sounded shady (pun intended), but my friend was right, it works.

I’m singing in my best Julie Andrews voice “these are a few of my favourite things!” They are simple, but oh so significant. If you have any of your own life hacks, I learn the best tips by reading what you do, so please share. I…we…are all ears.

Check out more life hacks in the Living Like You #MSLifeHacks series. And check back often because there will be one new life hack added per day!

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