An unhappy anniversary to me.

Two years ago today, I was getting ready for the season finale of Homeland.  I needed to throw one more load of laundry in the washer.  I put on my new bedroom slippers and hurriedly trotted down my basement stairs….only to fall and break both bones in my leg and dismantle my entire right ankle. Honestly, I still have flashbacks of the accident that make my stomach sick and my body shake.  It took a surgery on both sides of my ankle, multiple plates and screws, a cast, walking boot, lace-up-brace, wheelchair, crutches, cane, and 6 months of intense physical therapy to recover.

Two weeks after the surgery, I spoke with the surgeon.  I asked him how the ankle looked during the surgery..  The good side?  My ankle was completely dismantled.  How is that good, I wondered?  Well, the fact that I destroyed the entire ankle and disconnected it from the bones in my leg, allowed the doctor to go in and repair everything (including the damage to the ankle caused by synovitis-caused by RA).  I believe he said something along the lines of “I couldn’t give you a Lamborghini repair job over a broken down Chevy.”  I didn’t know what to make of that statement.  Two years later and I know exactly what he meant.

An MRI prior to the broken leg had shown how much damage synovitis had done to my right ankle.  Pockets of hardened synovial fluid under ligaments and swollen membranes treated me to years of pain and red, hot ankles.  Once that damage to my “broken down Chevy ankle” was  repaired and the bones were screwed back together I have an economy version of a Lamborghini.  I still have pain in that joint from my autoimmune arthritis.  But it is radically different now.  I don’t get the red hot feeling.  I don’t get the pain that makes me sick to my stomach.  I get an achy pain and swelling, but now that the damage from synovitis is gone, I feel like my “worst” joint is no longer my worst enemy.  I can walk for longer periods of time and stairs are a little bit easier.  I don’t have great range of motion, but I can wear heels now (can you believe it?????!!!!!) I pay for it the next day, but I do it with pride 😉

I’ll never be happy that I broke my leg.  It was really traumatic and lonely (I was snowed in alone most of that winter, and had to give up the dog for 3 months because she also broke her leg and I could not take care of her).  I was scared that my autoimmune arthritis would prevent me from healing correctly.  I feared being crippled more than I already was.  I learned that people I didn’t know offered to help me more when I used a wheelchair, crutches and a cane than when I walk with my noticeable limp (which still pops up often).  Breaking the leg taught me that I am stronger than I realized both mentally and physically.  It made me a fighter.  It taught me to throw my laundry basket down the basement steps instead of carrying it down.  I’ll never be happy that I broke my leg, but I’ll never regret it.

So unhappy anniversary to me and my economy-Lamborghini ankle.  I hope we have many more unbreakable years to come.  And I never did watch that finale of Homeland….

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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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