Arthritis and Alligators

Pattye Snyder Health Guide
  • A few years ago, when I began my journey with O.A., I obviously had no idea what was happening. Of course I had a titanium joint replacement earlier in the base of my right foot because the joint was gone, and a steel plate put in to support my deteriorating right ankle, but thought, “well - took care of those” (not knowing it was only a beginning!)

    My next hint was on a week-long canoe/camping trip in the Everglades, which was probably NOT the optimum activity for a patient with OA, but as a nature photographer, I was able to ignore much of the pain and literally focus on my surroundings. Incredible shorebirds, mystical frogs in the mangrove swamps, and bright-colored coral-mass colonies on the white sand beaches helped me ignore the twinges of pain. Walking on the warm white sand beach was like walking on warm snow. At night, I fell asleep in my tent to the hypnotic crashing of the waves on the beach nearby.
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    The first night, I awakened suddenly to the piercing sound of quiet - I didn’t know the tide was going out – for one brief moment I thought I had suddenly gone deaf! In one of my photographs, I was able to capture the essence of a huge alligator’s head (thank goodness for zoom lens!) Strangely enough, he’s become “My Friend Arthur” – the photo, NOT the critter. Arthur has become my personal “friend” – my symbol of my disease – he’s always with me – he’s painful, potentially dangerous, and can become deadly. Arthur will never really go away and somehow I have to learn to accept him, watch out for the danger signals, and somehow learn to live around him.

    By the way, I have eaten alligator. When prepared properly, it can be very tasty, and NO it doesn’t taste like chicken.

    After an awesome canoe trip, in spite of discomfort, I flew back to Chicago to wait for a connecting flight. I will never forget the excruciating pain that hit me – my first thought was that I needed a shot of WD40 to lubricate the joint. As the pain continued, I thought “I just want to be shot!” I absolutely decided that this was no fun, and wanted it to be over!

    When my orthopedic surgeon said that I would need a complete hip replacement, I was thrilled to find a solution. He mentioned that I’d have a long scar. I replied that, at my age, I’d just give my grandkids magic markers and they could play connect the dots on Gramma! I am learning to love life and to laugh at me. Keeping a positive attitude most of the time has become a survival tool for me.

    My surgery and recovery, although challenging, were awesome – they really helped me to get the best surgical help and pre and post therapy I could. I realize that was far from my last surgery, but I can do “it” knowing how much it can help. My friend Arthur is definitely here to stay, but I won’t let him control my life!

    What coping strategies do you have for dealing with Osteoarthritis? Tell us in the message boards.
Published On: September 07, 2006