Infections and Biologics and Me, Oh my…

I was at work 5 days ago and my hands suddenly swelled, and I felt odd.  I woke up the next morning feeling flu-like and out of sorts.  I called off from work and went back to bed.  I had every intention of going back to work the next day.  I thought it was just a flare up.  Turns out I had a double ear infection and sinus infection….along with a flare up of my autoimmune arthritis.  Talk about feeling like dog poo.

I started taking biologics over 2 years ago.  I have noticed that when I get sick, I feel almost immediately crippled by every one of my illnesses.  I’m purposely taking an autoimmune suppressant so I can live somewhat of a normal life.  It truly reduces swelling and helps significantly with pain control.  The red flag is that when I get a cold it immediately turns into an infection that takes me weeks to fight off.  It’s exhausting.  It’s depressing.

So many people tell me “But you don’t look sick”…to which I would love to reply, “But you don’t look stupid”…My autoimmune diseases kick my butt daily and cause fatigue and flu-like feelings.  Couple that will a sinus infection and ear infections and my body almost shuts down in defense mode. I work with kids who are adorable little germ magnets and I almost fear the snotty snifflers more than I would someone with a gun.  Every infection can be serious b/c I take biologics….but it’s a choice I make to take the drug.  It just sucks when I get sick and take forever to get better.

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Kelly holds masters degrees in both Special Education and Speech-Language Pathology. She works full-time as a speech-language pathologist in both a public school setting and as an adjunct faculty member at a university, in Philadelphia, PA. She specializes in both autism and augmentative/alternative communication and took her skills to Uganda, Africa to start a special needs program for disabled children living in an orphanage in 2011. Kelly began experiencing symptoms of autoimmune arthritis in 1984 (while in her teens) but wasn’t officially diagnosed with autoimmune arthritis until 2001. Her first diagnosis was Sjogren’s syndrome. Eventually her diagnosis was changed to sero-negative RA and now Polyarticular Spondlyoarthropathy. She also manages thyroid disease (resulting from Graves Disease), fibromyalgia, renin-deficient hypertension, and disseminated superficial actinic porokeratosis (DSAP) on a daily basis. Kelly connected with other autoimmune arthritis patients via social media in 2008. She began volunteering with the “Buckle Me UP! Movement”, which evolved into the International Autoimmune Arthritis Movement (IAAM) beginning in 2009. Then became a cofounder of IFAA in 2013. She has represented the ACR on Capitol Hill as an Advocate for Arthritis, was a finalist in Wego Health’s Health Activist Hero awards in 2014, and speaks at various healthcare conferences as a patient advocate in the Philadelphia area.

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