A FERRING woman who has lived with rheumatoid arthritis for 40 years has praised the specialist medical team that help control her disease.
Consultant rheumatologist Dr Alistair Hepburn, Pam Davies, physiotherapist at the hydrotherapy pool at Worthing Hospital, Dr Claire Farrer, GP at the Barn Surgery in Ferring, and phlebotomist Sheree Hepburn were honoured with a National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society healthcare champion award for 2013 by MP Theresa May at the House of Commons earlier this month.
They were nominated by Liz Mines, who was 26 when she was diagnosed with the disease.
She said: “There was an immediate onset after I had my first son, it was overnight and I suddenly started having pain in my feet, shoulders and elbows.
“I was told at first that it was tennis elbow, but when I finally had some blood tests they showed conclusively that it was rheumatoid arthritis.
“I did not really believe it when I was told and I thought I had been given someone else’s results but something was wrong because I was in a lot of pain and it was very difficult to pick up my son because of my hands.
“It affected me all over. I was put on quite strong treatment which consisted of several injections at the time with severe side-effects, but things have moved on a great deal since then.
“Now I am treated with anti-cancer drugs which suppress the immune system, and I also have regular physiotherapy sessions at the hydrotherapy pool in Worthing.”
Mrs Mines has had around 22 operations, her most recent being a back fusion operation last year.
She said: “Ten years after I was diagnosed I had both shoulders replaced as they went pretty quickly.
“I found it difficult being in hospital for long periods of time because we had three children under ten, but I had amazing friends and my husband Geoff was brilliant.
“Now I have had most things in my body replaced except my hips. I am in pain every day and I cannot remember what it is like not to be, but you do get used to a level of pain.”
Mrs Mines has been volunteering for the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society for a decade.
She said: “I do mainly telephone support work and speak to people about what they are going through such as surgery and coping with the disease.
“When people are first diagnosed they can be frightened. There is a lot of information out there but in some ways there is too much and it is better to talk to someone who has actually come out the other side and manages the disease.”
Mrs Mines said she is indebted to the work of her rheumatology team.
“They all go above and beyond the call of duty in my care and I could not wish for better treatment,” she said.
“I consider myself very lucky to be their patient.
“When I attend appointments, Dr Hepburn always takes the time to look at all aspects of my rheumatoid arthritis, gives a thorough examination and discusses with me the best way forward regarding drugs, surgery and ancillary service referrals. I never feel rushed although his clinics are always very busy.
“Sheree is excellent at taking blood from my veins, which after 41 years is not easy and even anaesthetists have trouble at times. This can be difficult with elbows that do not straighten, but it never seems to be an issue with Sheree.
“Dr Farrer gives as much time as is needed at my appointments and is very thorough in covering all aspects of my condition, and Pam is also a vital part of the team.”