It was a dark and stormy night.
Aren't all stories supposed to start that way? Seriously though, I had what you would call a normal childhood, sports, fishing, hunting and all things that boys growing up in the country normally experience.
My dad died from a heart attack at home when I was 13 years old. My mom had osteoporosis and was stooped. She died in 1992 and as I look back, I think she must have had AS and was not diagnosed. In 1966 after one year of college, I enlisted in the Air Force, served in Viet Nam from April 1968 till April 1969 and was honorably discharged in 1970. Oh, by the way, I got married in June 1967, but more on that later.
In 1972 I went to work in a tire plant in Texarkana, Arkansas on an assembly line building truck tires. Healthy as a horse still. 6'4", 220 lbs and could bench 280 lbs. One year later (age 26) I thought I had pulled a muscle in my lower back at work. I was sent to our company doctor, who by the way was a gynecologist, and was given muscle relaxers and told to take it easy for a couple of days. A week went by and the "pulled muscle" was not any better. After numerous tests, he determined that I had a terminal type of Lupus. He sent blood samples to California for confirmation. Two weeks later, the results showed that I did not have Lupus and he had gotten a false positive on his test. Hence the term "mixed emotions", I did not know if I wanted to give him a big kiss or knock the sh__ out of him. Anyway, I was then sent to a diagnostic clinic in Temple, Texas. That was the first time I had heard the words "Ankylosing Spondylitis". I was told what to expect in the future and was given some exercises to do each day. They also gave me a prescription for a drug called Butylazoldin (Sp). This stuff worked so well that I forgot about the AS and the exercises for a long while.
In 1978, I left the tire plant and went to Houston to work for a large
Air Freight company. More pay and better benefits and lots of advancement
opportunities. In 1980 my forth child was born. The other
three were born is 1968, 1970, and 1976. I finally found out what
was causing this.
In 1984, I heard about a doctor in California that was doing some type of epidurals that offered up to 3 years relief from the pain. Like a flash, I was off to Los Angeles and the Gardenia Medical Clinic for some relief. Two cath. were inserted into my spine, at great pain I might add, and morphine and a steroid was injected into the spinal column. 3 years, NOT, more like two weeks. Wasted a week and about $5000 of my own money.
My wife was not handling my AS very well by now and in the summer of 1985 she left me. The night she left I was really depressed and alone. I had my AR-15 hunting rifle under my chin and was about to do something really stupid when I heard a car drive up. It was my oldest son that dropped by to check on his dad. Thanks to him stopping by, I changed my mind and decided not to give her the satisfaction. My son never knew what he had done by stopping by to check.
In 1986, I had two bouts with kidney stones that had to be treated with
Lithotripsey (Sp) both times. Since then, I have had stones dozens
of times, but have been able to pass them on my own.
For the next few years, the pain got worse and I began to stoop. Part of my job by this time since I was in management was to travel to different cities all over to world. By 1995, the hotels and airports had taken their toll and I decided to retire. I could hardly walk and was stooping more and more. Thanks to an excellent Rheumy, with her help, I had no problem getting SSI benefits. In 1998 she finally convinced me to see an orthopedic surgeon. He said that some of the forward flexation was due to the fusing of my hip joints and said that the hip joints were bone grinding on bone and that sooner or later they would completely fuse and I would be in a wheelchair permanently. Another danger, was that the thigh bone had nearly worn its way through my pelvic bone and this would cause future problems. I decided to have the surgery. In August last year my left hip was replaced. The day after surgery, there was no pain and I was able to walk 200 feet. I had the right hip done in October. By the first of November, I was pain free and could walk without a walker. The surgery had straightened me up enough to be able to see where I was going.
Since December, I have been pain free and off all meds. These meds included NSAIDS, methadone, Prednisone and fosamax. I as also totally fused and am more active than I have been for years. Still, I miss being able to run and walk upright and I get depressed once in awhile, but things could be worse. My favorite book is --- Don't Sweat the Small Stuff........And It's All Small Stuff ------- by Richard Carlson PhD.
Thanks for listening.