Over the Labor Day holiday, my family and I celebrated the golden birthday of my youngest niece. Ellie turned two on September 2nd. My brother Ray, Ellie’s dad, said that he was looking at old pictures of us when we were kids earlier in the week and he noticed how Ellie’s face closely resembled mine when I was her age. It sure would be fun to watch her grow up and see many faces in the family tree reflected in hers.
Ellie’s strong independent personality clearly shows how she takes after her proud uncle, although I wouldn’t wish for her what I’ve recently realized to be a commonly shared family gene. Every now and then, if I don’t watch what I eat, I suffer from a mild to severe gout attack. Gout is a form of arthritis. It occurs when uric acid builds up in the bloodstream and causes inflammation in the joints. Acute gout is a painful condition that often affects only one joint. Chronic gout is repeated episodes of pain and inflammation which may affect more than one joint. Ray has it. Some of my aunts and uncles have it. My grandmother had it.
My first trip to New Orleans in 2010 triggered my first severe flare-up. I literally ate my way through this lovely city, enjoying the best seafood gumbo, barbecue shrimp, soft shell crab, and red beans and rice – a menu rich with uric acid. Thankfully I was already back in Chicago when pain struck. It was unbearable. Who knew how pain in one joint – the big toe on my right foot – could paralyze my entire existence? I thought the pain would go away overnight, but I cried myself to sleep. The next day, my doctor prescribed allopurinol and told me to take 800 mg of ibuprofen every four hours. That was the only time I felt total relief from the pain. I had to cancel business appointments for the next 3 days and didn’t reschedule until I was confident I could walk again, even with a cane.
Never in my wildest thoughts did I expect to develop arthritis. Only then did I begin to seek more information about it, about other people – including children – who have it and how they cope, and available resources to help people like me live a better life with arthritis.
At the core of this effort, the Arthritis Foundation leads the way. Founded in 1948, the Foundation helps people take control of arthritis by providing public health education; pursuing public policy and legislation; and conducting evidence-based programs to improve the quality of life for those living with arthritis. They are also the largest private, nonprofit contributor to arthritis research in the world, funding more than $450 million in research grants since 1948.
There are a number of ways to become involved with the Arthritis Foundation. Whether you become a member, or make a donation, your contribution goes to support cutting-edge research and scientifically proven programs designed to help people with arthritis. For every dollar donated to the Arthritis Foundation, 78 cents goes directly to fund research and activities for people with arthritis. Getting involved doesn’t require a major donation or major time commitment. Attending a fundraising event – be it a fun run, breakfast or gala, or the Arthritis Walk – is another way to help.
Join me on September 21, 2013 at the Arthritis Foundation’s 24th Freedom of Movement Gala and support this worthy cause. With your help, people with arthritis like myself can live fully and thrive. Watching my niece, Ellie at her birthday party reminded me how fast kids grow up. What a joy if I could be there with her every step of the way.
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to www.affreedomofmovement.org.