A Benefit in a Second Opinion

Getting a Second Opinion Arthritis

An active parent of two boys, at the age of 33 I never imagined I would end up in a wheel chair 5 short years later. I was very active with my boys, playing basketball, roller blading, hiking, and diving off high cliffs. I wanted to have fun with my boys, not send them out to have fun on their own. We had just gotten our roller blades when I started having problems with my foot. At first I thought it was because I had dropped something on it, but it just got worse, so I went to a podiatrist. This doctor was so nice and was very concerned because he couldn’t seem to find the cause of my pain and swelling. Eventually he referred me to a Rheumatologist, telling me I should have them do a special blood test to check for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).

By this time I couldn’t wear a shoe and I was willing to try anything. Ultimately, I was diagnosed with RA and this Rheumatologist wrote me an order for handicap tags and proceeded to tell me how my whole world was going to change. He told me I wouldn’t be able to play basketball or rollerblade or hike. He said that I needed to limit my exercises to aquatic exercises. Well, I didn’t exactly follow his advice, I was determined to do as much as I could. Over the years, there were times when the pain and swelling would hinder me from riding my bike, or hiking, or rollerblading, but I did not let it take control of my life. Then, a year ago, my feet were bothering me much more than the usual pain I had become accustomed to. I went to my podiatrist (the same one I started seeing in 1995) and he took x-rays to see how the old feet were doing.

The x-rays showed that my left foot had osteoporosis with some breakdown in the joints and a complete breakdown of the joints in the right foot. There was no cartilage in the right foot and my toe joints had separated from the foot causing the bones to move around and cause me horrible pain! The doctor ordered special shoes and told me to wear those shoes and limit my activities. Well, I bought these expensive shoes and limited my activity and the pain continued. I went back to this doctor and he ordered me to a 20-ft limitation of walking and recommended I use a wheel chair at work and when shopping or doing any of the other things a lot of people take for granted.

I was devastated, it seemed like everything was going wrong when it should be going right. I was about to go to Mexico with my husband and all my friends to celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary. We were going to have a wedding by the ocean and renew our vows, then go on a cruise, I couldn’t be having this foot problem now of all times! I realized after feeling sorry for myself for a while that I had to persevere and make the best of a bad thing. So, with the help of a cane I had my wedding by the beach and my wonderful husband made using the wheelchair a good experience! He helped me have fun on the cruise in spite of my disabilities.

When we returned and I went back to work in the wheel chair, one of my coworkers asked me about the wheelchair and when I told him my story, he asked me if I had gotten a second opinion. Well, I never thought of getting a second opinion! I took it for granted that the podiatrist who had taken such good care of me over the years knew what was best for me. Then another coworker gave me the name and number of a different podiatrist and told me I should get a second opinion. With two people telling me the same thing I thought I should take their advice, so I took the number and made the appointment.

I went to my doctor’s office and asked for my x-rays, thinking this would save some time and effort. The new doctor looked at my x-rays and listened to my story. He said when he looked at my feet from the outside he couldn’t imagine they were feet with so much damage, but according to the x-rays, they were badly damaged. Then he said something that made me perk up! He said there was a surgery that he usually didn’t recommend to a person my age, but considering the alternative of being in a wheel chair, he would recommend this surgery. He described the surgery to me and told me I would be back to work in 4-6 days. I took this information and decided that since I had two different opinions from two different doctors, that I needed a third opinion. So I made an appointment with a third podiatrist and he gave me the same recommendation as the second. He said he couldn’t see having me use a wheel chair when this surgery could be very beneficial for many years. The draw back was that after about 10 years, I would probably have to have another surgery.

So, I made the necessary arrangements and had the surgery. Now, a year later, I can rollerblade, hike, and shoot hoops! I may not do it as agile as a person without RA, but I do it. I am determined to have as full a life as I can for as long as this old body will let me! Of course, I have to watch what I do and how much I do or I pay for it later, but I am so happy I went for that second opinion!

I would love to hear from anyone! Email me at leilaweatherssteer@yahoo.com