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Pauls Story
Paul Olive

Here is my story - I hope that it helps people because it helped me when I wrote it.......

Part one

Well then - where should I begin...mmm..lets see...oh yes - my school days. I am 27 now and whilst I was at school I had an accident during one of my Physical Education classes - to those of you not in the UK it is probably called PT or Gym! I performed a front somersault and landed slightly passed my expected landing site and although the crash matt cushioned my body one of my feet missed the matt completely and smashed down hard on the gym floor. As you can imagine I was in a lot of pain and sat out the rest of my class.

One of my pastimes was skateboarding at this point and I put a lot of my foot pains down to the constant bashing my feet were getting through my skateboarding. Some days would be good - some bad - and although the constant pain had disappeared after a few weeks I found myself unable to put my whole body weight on one foot without the need for facial expressions......:( This continued for several months until eventually I went to my local GP who suggested some Physiotherapy to see if that would help. I had laser treatment, ice packs, ultrasound, heat treatment but none of this seemed to help.  Eventually it was decided by my Physiotherapist and GP that a Cortisone injection directly into the Achilles tendon and heel of my foot should sort it out once and for all. Reluctantly I agreed and saw the Orthopedic surgeon the next month - he injected my heel (yes that hurt to!!) and told me to take two days off and relax and try not to walk on it - why do doctors say that? - try not to walk on it....ha ha ha. I found that it had helped - but the pain relief only lasted 4 weeks - I decided to cope with the pain and trudge on. After several months of numbing pain and not being able to put any weight on my right foot when I got out of bed in the morning I went back to my GP and asked for another injection - yes another!!! This one went well and I got nearly two months of relief - then the pains came back - I carried on with the pains in my feet - taking pain killers in order to get by and walk for more than 30 minutes.

Eventually I decided that I couldn't go on through life like this and after another visit to my GP and after waiting for another appointment with the Surgeon he decided to bite the bullet and perform an operation. By this time I was now on Private Health care though my employers and I only had to wait a few months for the Op - it was called a plantar fascitis operation and meant going in through the side of the foot and slicing the ligament away from the bone - when the ligament re-attaches itself with scar tissue this should cure the pain problem.

The operation went well and I was off work for 4 weeks on crutches - approximately 6 weeks after the operation I visited the Surgeon and he seemed to think the Operation had gone well............but surprise surprise 3 months after the Op I was still unable to walk for more than 20-30 minutes without having to stop and sit down because of the pain. I contacted the Surgeon and he politely informed me that there was nothing more he could do!! Nothing more he could do - for gods sake I was only 25 and couldn't even walk around my own house in the morning.....I felt angry and decided to get a second opinion. I visited my GP and he wrote a letter to another surgeon who had agreed to see me.

To find out what happened when I saw him you must read part two of my story.

Part two

Whilst waiting for my appointment I was experiencing pains in my chest again - I had had these pains since I was 19 and when I coughed or sneezed a shooting pain would go through my ribcage - I went to physiotherapy for these pains was given ultrasound to help relieve them.

My appointment finally came though - I showed him my scar - where it hurts, when it hurts and then asked him WHY it hurts!!! He looked at me with a puzzled look and said to me - and I will never forget his words - he said '..I don't suppose you suffer from Ankylosing Spondylitis do you?' I replied 'not as far as I know - why?' He asked me if I had been getting any pains in my chest or back - I informed him that I had just finished 8 sessions of physio on my chest because I had been getting pains and found trouble sleeping on my front. He kindly explained that the pain I was experiencing in the heel of my foot is one of the symptoms of AS and that is why the Operation had probably not worked - it was not a muscle problem - it was a bone problem.

Now this is where all the fun began.....He sent me for a blood test to test for the HLA B27 presence in my blood - unfortunately when I phoned the hospital to get my results I was told that this blood test had been lost and so had to take another - I went to another hospital more local for another blood test - he also suggested that I go for an MRI scan on my foot so that he may have a better look at it. I had the MRI scan and the blood test and waited for the results - I phoned the hospital and for a second time was told that the Blood test had been incorrectly done and I would have to have another - by this time I was getting so frustrated at not knowing whether I had AS - and what the consequences of having AS would cause me.

I went for a third and final blood test and after waiting for the results I received a letter saying that the results were positive - the MRI scan also concluded that my heel problem had been a symptom of AS. I felt gutted, betrayed and angry with my original surgeon - why had he not told me of AS - surely he must have known that there was a chance I may have it - I had all the symptoms - a simple blood test would have saved me nearly 6 years of pain.

I asked my new surgeon why this was so and was told that Doctors do not like to link heel pain or chest pain problems with AS due to Life Insurance purposes !!! I was told that I may have had trouble getting life insurance IF I had been diagnosed with AS.!! Although pissed off at him I understand why my original surgeon had neglected to make the link with my
pains and AS.

The new surgeon told me all about AS and told me what I can expect - I found it hard to understand that what I thought was just a heel pain would now cause a chain reaction of events that would change my
whole life........

I was on a mission - I needed answers and knew where to get them - I am a computer systems manager and knew that the Internet held the key to get the information I needed. I came across Brian's website and the N.A.S.S website - both of these helped me immensely - I found out what I could expect, what I could do to help myself and what I MUST DO to make things easier for me in the future. I was also shocked at what I read - I believe that in ancient Greek times the Cyclops had given up one of his eyes in order to see into the future - unfortunately the only future he was able to see was his death. I felt the same - I knew that from this day forth my life would change - and I would HAVE to change in order to help myself - I felt angry, upset, confused and a number of other emotions all at the same time. What was I to do - I had never really though too much about my distant future - I knew that I liked my job and liked how I lived - would these have to change because of my affliction?

The first thing I did was realize that ..'I HAD AS..' and nothing was gonna change that - I accepted AS and the consequences of having it. This was probably the best thing that I could have done - there is no point being angry about AS - it is a part of your life now and it must be accepted. I still fear the future and what it holds for me - I still hate the thought of having to take painkillers for the rest of my life, having to change my diet and my lifestyle - all of these things make you angry.

However, I look forward to each day as it breaks - my life seems more important to me now than it ever did before I had AS - illness does change things. It has made me realize that our time on this planet is but a short time - and it is everyone's duty to make the most of their life and not to worry about things that they cant change but to concentrate on what they can do to make those things more bearable.

As you read this maybe you feel the same as me - maybe you don't? It is your life and as the saying goes..'Life is what you make it....' The amount of help, support and understanding that goes on within this website is unbelievable - I truly believe that AS is not an affliction - it has helped me become more caring, more understanding and more thoughtful towards others. I never thought that there would be a time when I would be sitting here typing up a story of how I came to get AS and posting it on a website for all to see - do not be afraid of what you don't understand - take the time to understand it and then you will be able to see what all others around you cannot.

Take care everyone - and keep Kickin AS !!!!

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