Rheumatology class wasn't really that boring as to what everyone had considered before. Last week, we had a Patient-Partner activity wherein we got the chance to meet some rheuma patients. I think it's only UST who has a program like this in all the med schools in the Philippines. We were introduced to 6 Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) patients, some are in their active stage and others in their latent. Rheumatoid arthritis is not the usual arthritis a lot of people know. Commonly complained by the elderly individuals such as osteoarthritis and gouty arthritis are different kind of arthritis. For those who doesn't know, arthritis is a disorder of assortment.
So basically, Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the joints. As we all know, our immune system is the one responsible for attacking invasive microorganisms that may enter or invade our body. So when we say autoimmune disease, it is a disease wherein there is a destruction of tissues by the body's own immune system. In other words, the immune system is some kind of deranged. And the tissues that are involved in this condition are the joints so they are continuously destroyed and into a certain extent even extend to the bones and are eroded, leading to deformity.
The patient that was assigned to us was Mila. She's friendly, soft spoken and sophisticated. Although she has rheumadoid atrhitis for decades, she still looks so glamorous and happy. She loves to watch movies and she can still drive on her own using her shift-stick wheels! Amazing huh?
She shared to us her experiences as she copes with life carrying with it the debilitating (but not to her) disorder. She can still remember the first symptom she felt.
Due to her condition, she already had bilateral hip joint replacement, an elbow joint replacement and I think also her knee was also replaced.
She also told us her unusual encounters and stories with different doctors she consulted, some are exceptional. But what caught our attention, or maybe it's just me was when she finally revealed and shared her stuffs which make her life a lot easier, for her hand joints are too deformed to function well. So here are some of her stuff:
So basically, her personalized stuffs improve her manual dexterity cos her joints are deformed. The main point is that all the handles should be large enough for easy handling and so she can easily grab and manipulate these things. Very clever!
So, there, what I learned from Mila is that there is life in rheumatoid arthritis. Many RA patients especially those who recently acquired the disease tend to lose hope. It's not the end of everything even if it causes so much pain and burden. It's debilitating but if we know how to deal with it and to fight against it, life would be as it is, beautiful.
BTW, can you guess who's my model above? Hahaha...
Another thing that caught my attention was this LUISA Project. So, in rheumatology, it's not all about joints but we also discuss these certain autoimmune conditions which many people are not aware about. LUISA Project is all about patients with Lupus or SLE. Basically, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) or just Lupus is a chronic disease that causes the immune system to mistakenly attack the body’s own healthy cells. The disease causes a host of debilitating symptoms which can eventually lead to tissue damage, organ failure or even death. It affects mostly women in their childbearing years, with the highest prevalence among Asians, Africans and Hispanics.
According to the LUISA Project website, there is a growing perception that lupus is more common and more severe among Asians including Filipinos; however, there is scarcity of data to verify this impression. The LUISA Project actually defines and address the burden of illness of lupus among Filipinos, heighten public and private sector interest and diagnosis and treatment of the disease in order to attain optimal quality of life for patients.
The LUISA Project also seeks to enhance physician and patient education, develop and sustain self-help programs for patients and care-givers, in close coordination with local lupus support groups and to provide educational and travel grants for physician trainees and international experts in lupus.
Let's support LUISA now!