I'm very lucky to have been spared RA diagnosis until 70+ years after I first came to the notice of pre-NHS orthopaedics, hence my attempts to stay 'chirpy' in the face of adversity. [Wow, that's almost poetic!]
Why choose 'Dodo' for a username? Well, an elderly gentleman dentist chose it for me when I was 'knee-high to a grasshopper' in knee-to-ankle calipers, deeply resenting infant school's photographers because I didn't want their attention, and he remarked that with blonde curls and a pretty smile on my face, who on earth would notice my feet?
There was a discernible change in subsequent school photos after that first, until the confident child emerged - albeit with her skinny 'chicken' legs and large plates of meat [feet]. Being raised with 7 siblings, one of whom a brother rendered paraplegic by Infantile Paralysis [Poliomyelitis], kept things in perspective.
Fast-forward to December 2015, after many orthopaedic issues and unresolved investigations over the years, at my routine dental check-up my dentist enquired about my physical well-being and I mentioned that I’d been experiencing difficulty in swallowing for several weeks but no cold or anticipated throat infection had materialized. She was well aware of my past discomfiture in the dentist chair and advised obtaining an early GP appointment, at which a blood test for thyroid function was arranged and referral for endoscopy was made by a Junior Doctor to the local hospital where inflammation of the gut was spotted - just in time for Christmas!
Earlier in the year I'd had simultaneous surgeries for Carpal Tunnel and De Quervain's syndrome on my left hand, but before I'd finished writing my second batch of Christmas cards, returning from the practice and preparing to alight from a packed bus, the driver braked suddenly and I was impelled forward and then back, my full weight borne on my right wrist in an overhead strap grabbed in order not to flatten standing passengers. I thought I’d escaped injury until a couple of hours later, when my wrist started to throb and swell. I devised a cold compress using pleated cotton wool inside tubular stockinet, which I was able to wet under a cold tap and squeeze out excess water, repeating the process as necessary over the next few days. [Four months later, the wrist remains swollen and painful.]
Fast-forward to mid-January when I awoke on a Sunday to pain deep in my right groin – very much as I’d expect from a blood clot or a trapped nerve. Walking was hampered, especially on stairs, leading with left foot and dragging right, one step at a time. When elevating legs on sofa, I had to lift my right leg manually as it was incapable of independent manoeuvre: similarly, to get off the sofa, I had to reverse the action. Next day the leg was OK but by then I was experiencing similar intense pain under left side of rib cage, which made me gasp when most severe and expansion of left lung impeded. For several hours breathing was restricted and painful on my left side. As I was due to see the practice nurse Friday I suppressed my anxiety and when I couldn't get a GP appointment she recommended, I opted for a telephone consultation during which my GP reassured me it was unlikely to have been a blood clot and he would have expected me to ring the surgery if I'd been having breathing problems!
Suffice to say, when I had two similar 3-day experiences subsequently I resorted to the 111 Service and at my daughters' insistence I was eventually seen at an out-of-hours appointment where the Dr prescribed the strongest painkillers and anti-inflammatory that would not compromise a Rheumatology Assessment.
The Junior Doctor at my GP practice was brilliant with his follow-ups: when I told him that my younger daughter, who suffers with Psoriatic Arthritis, had asked me to mention that my past ailments had been treated in isolation and she felt they should have been considered together, he added other traces to the Gout blood test request, which resulted in a positive Rheumatoid factor for the first time in my medical history.
Joy, oh joy! At last someone was prepared to listen! I could not thank him enough or the Trainee who pursued a Rheumatology Assessment appointment for me and, after awaiting instructions for clearance, arrived at my home on 1st April armed with a steroid injection which she accomplished without any discomfort to me.
Please don't think me flippant when I mention memory problems. Recognition is acceptance and, if only I could remember them or write them clearly, I've accidentally produced some hilarious spoonerisms to share. I'm trying to bring a little ray of sunshine whilst I can. Feel free to call me what you will. As my father used to say, I don't mind what you call me as long as it's not too late for dinner!