Arthritis, Crohns & Me

At the age of 25 I had my first hip replacement. It was carried out at Stanmore Orthopaedic Hospital in North London.

Over the years I’ve had another three, two more on my left, and just one on my right hip. The medical name for my condition is Ankylosing Spondylitis, a form of arthitis. This Arthritis affects the spine, pelvis, knee and other joints. It will stiffen your shoulders, restrict your neck movements and can cause problems with your eyes and breathing.

More men than women seem to have this form of Arthritis, the causes of it are not fully understood, the theories range from viral infection to people with certain blood types.

Another link is Crohn’s Disease which is an inflammatory bowel disease; I was diagnosed with that at 17.  So maybe for me this was what activated my Arthritis. Either way I’ve grown up with both, and it has become a natural part of my life.

The curvature of my spine is not the prettiest sight. I avoid mirrors and grew a second skin, if not distasteful comments could make life difficult if taken to heart. But I have given it a good run for its money, I have coached and managed football teams, run my own business, missing a handful of days off work, I still do a ten or twelve hour day at 57, yes it’s becoming more tiring, but life is lived but once.

There is no cure for what I have; it’s just a matter of getting by best you can. But it is important to try and stay positive, I played football until I was 24, in my younger days I did everything any normal kid would do, I climbed trees, ran around the fields that surrounded my house, rode my bike, and dangled upside down from the wall bars at school. Arthritis did not get its hands on me until into my very late teens, and then its grip was light.

But now I have spent half my life visiting Stanmore Hospital, and there I have seen children as young as six or seven with this dreadful disease – Arthritis, I’ve been told some children have it from birth; they never got the chance to do the things I did, how lucky I am. I have also been lucky to witness the brilliant staff working with these wonderful children, and they are brilliant, because both have a constant smile on their face, it’s a humbling experience.

I have been going to Stanmore Hospital regularly since the age of 18. I have seen it slowly begin to crumble around the edges and be unable to afford the replacement of the old equipment. I found myself bringing in showers so they could be replaced; just how such a wonderful hospital such as this is allowed to fall into such a bad state of disrepair baffles and sickens me.