I am a serving police officer who is now all of 37 years old. RA and the various auto immune diseases are slowly destroying my life.
At 27 years old I was extremely fit and active, cycling in excess of 250 miles a week and attending gym sessions every night of the week. I had a resting heart rate of 48 bpm and felt on top of the world. Initially i developed Graves thyrotoxicosis (over active thyroid) without any idea i was about to be hit. I was at work and nearly collapsed with exhaustion during a 500 metre run (something i used to breeze through). Over a matter of less than a week and i had lost nearly a stone in body weight and was waking up covered in sweat when i could sleep. I attended my GP who put me on carbimazole, once the condition had been confirmed. Over the next two weeks i was to lose a further 2 stone in body weight, my heart rate sat in a chair was 120 bpm. It took some time but eventually my condition was stabilised. I though i was over the worst, however much more was to come.
The same year I had lower back pain, i put this down to a possible pulled muscle. The pain stayed for several months and nothing seemed to happen, it eventually got worse and i developed a heavily bloodshot left eye. The pain was intense and after two days visiting the James Cook eye casualty department i was diagnosed with Iritis.
I referred myself to the Nuffield hospital for physiotherapy on my back, strangely enough it was the physio who refused to touch me without the direction of a rheumatologist. My employer at the time paid for me to see a consultant, following a hot blood test I was diagnosed as being HLA B27+. The rheumatologist told me i had rheumatoid seronegative spondyloarthritis.
Over the next twelve months I discovered that could not take various anti inflammatory drugs. Another bout of iritis followed, this time the inflammation was so great it stuck my pupil to the lens of my eye (in a keyhole shape). Eventually I managed to find a wonder anti inflammatory, VIOXX, this was short lived and withdrawn to be replaced by CELEBREX. This was also withdrawn and I ended up taking nothing as i was intolerant to anything but COX 2 inhibitors. My pupil eventually unstuck itself three years later.
In 2006, I moved to rural yorkshire and with it came a change of employer, but not job. Within less than a few months, my big toe joint began to swell up. It became so painful that i limped rather than walked. At first i got the usual reply from my GP, its gout. Eventually I was put back onto ETERICOXIB, which calmed things down.
In 2009, i began to have problems with pain in my neck. Shortly afterwards a bout of iritis followed, after a trip to A&E and two weeks of attending the eye infirmary they injected into my eye to try and reduce the inflammation as it did not respond to other treatment. Fortunately this worked and ended up avoiding surgery and possible loss of sight. Following a meeting with my occupation health department i returned on light duties, with specific conditions not to drive any police vehicles. This did make me chuckle as i had to drive 17 miles to work every day in my own car, but that was okay (corporate double standards).
My rheumatologist put me on sulfasalazine, this did not agree with me. I felt like i was going insane whilst taking the tablets. I continued taking Etericoxib (120mg), until the higher dosage made me ill and effected my blood count. This was solved with a lower dosage, my rheumatologist did question why my GP had me on the higher dose for in excess of 8 months. Following six months clear of symptoms i was discharged, due to there being no rheumatologist taking over from my retiring consultant.
In 2011, I noticed kept getting ice cold hands and feet for no reason. I also kept sustaining muscle pulls and tears despite warming up before exercise. Half way through the year I injured my back during a violent arrest. I knew something was wrong at the time, both my hands went numb with pins and needles. I could not even bend. When i received physiotherapy from the Police treatment centre (a charity), they discovered a mid back injury. I can only describe this injury as constant pain around the T3/T4 areas. Since that time i have rarely had a day that does not have pain in this area. Eventually I had to take tramadol just to get some sleep. The toll of pain, drowsiness, constant tiredness, irritability, was too much. I began to wake up and my hands felt like they were someone elses hands, I had felt warmer corpses. I ended up off sick trying to recover and settle my inflammation down.
My GP managed to refer me to another hospital, where i saw a new rheumatologist. What a refreshing change to deal with such a thorough and effective department. I await my next appointment as it is Methotrexate or biological drugs coming up.
My employer however as a large public body, does not care, is not really interested, and tried to revoke my sick note. The main point of the occupational health appointment was to threaten me with half pay. In the current climate I hold out no hope, they need to shed jobs to save money. As far as integration for my condition there has been zero consideration as to the tasks they ask me to perform, except do not drive police cars (but i still have to drive to work).
At 37 years old, I feel like i have been in a car crash every day. The tiredness i experience is immense, my mind sometimes struggles to perform tasks it used to whizz through in milliseconds. My once solid motivation is just not there some days, yet very few understand so i am branded work shy and lazy.