I’m pleasantly surprised with how well this blog’s been going (posts on three consecutive weeks, you know!) so I thought I might try and give it a bit of structure. As well as all the (fascinating, I’m sure) stuff about my life and legs, I’m going to try and do a section on people who have made a difference, either to the world of childhood arthritis, or to my life. The first person I’d like to write about is Dr. Barbara Ansell.
Dr. Barbara Ansell (1923-2001) was the founder of paediatric rheumatology. I met her once when I was young, but unfortunately I don’t remember and my parents don’t remember anything anecdotal about it, which is a shame.
Anyone who has ever been to a paediatric rheumatology clinic (who hasn’t, right?) will know that it can sometimes be an intimidating experience – there’s usually around eight people in the room, as well as the child concerned and their parents. The actual people present tends to vary, but there will usually be a consultant rheumatologist, a rheumatology nurse specialist (to help with a patient’s medical, emotional and social needs), a podiatrist, an orthotist (who may make devices to help support weakened joints or deformities), a physiotherapist, an orthopaedic surgeon and an occupational therapist (who will offer devices a patient can use to make everyday tasks easier). In teaching hospitals, each of these people may have a student with them as well.
While this team can seem overwhelming, it’s actually amazing to be able to deal with any problem you might encounter all at the same time. This was Dr. Ansell’s initiative – she believed that children with arthritis should be able to have as near to a normal life as possible, and ensured this happened by involving these specialists in the treatment of her patients.
When you’ve got arthritis, it’s the easiest thing in the world to just sit and rest and avoid pain. But there’s so much more that comes from working through it where you can, because the more you train your body into dealing with the pain the more it will.
One of the first hospital appointments I ever went to was, understandably, a bit of a shock to the system for my parents, when they saw an older child with the same condition as me in a wheelchair. My dad asked my doctor if that was my future, and her response was a simple one: only if you let it be.
Dr. Ansell realised long before anyone else did that the route to “recovery” for a JIA patient was exercise and creating solutions to problems patients may face. This can be something as simple as a gadget for opening a can of pop – there’s an app for that, and I got it from an occupational therapist.
I wouldn’t presume to say that everyone’s JIA is as manageable as mine (fortunately) is, but from the bottom of my heart, I’d like to say thank you to Dr. Barbara Ansell, because she was right about me. And also to my parents, for making me walk everywhere (except up and downstairs) as a child – because that is the only reason I can do that stuff now.