A.S. Face 0406: Leigh Pierce

My name is Leigh Pierce and I am a fighter with AS. I am 26 years old and I have been having increasing worse back pain for 10-12 years. When I was 20, I started going to several orthopedic doctors and even the Cleveland Clinic (all who were very credible). I was told that I had degenerative disk disease and several other diagnoses. I had physical therapy 4 weeks x 3 trials and even tried aquatic therapy. Finally I was sent to a pain management doctor. At first I had 6 facet shots for 2 trials and when that didn’t work I have one SI shot in each joint x 2 trials. The pain was much worse following the shots, so the doctor decided to “burn my R sciatic nerve.” None of these procedures were ever explained but I assume that they were cortisone injections. The doctor was going to try another injection and I stopped him. I decided to buy an elliptical to get in better physical shape (not that I was overweight) and try to manage the symptoms on my own. I have never been successful at managing the pain. I have tried all of the OTC NSAID’s and they are not effective whatsoever.  In 2008 (7 months after I got married), I had a myomectomy to remove a fibroid tumor from my uterus. I had my beautiful daughter, Alana Kay, in April 2010 following 2 months of bedrest secondary to preeclamsia. Last fall, I began to experience severe hip pain and I could barely walk. Approximately 3 weeks later, I was hospitalized for 7 days with an extensive DVT in my L femoral vein and I was diagnosed with May-Thurner Syndrome. I had a catheter in my leg with thrombolytics and I was unable to move for 36 hours (which did not help my hips and back!). My hip pain has not receded so I decided to attempt to figure out what was wrong (after taking 6 years off from going to doctors for my back). I really tried everything that I could because I have mounting medical bills from hospitalizations every year for the past 3 years, but I was unable. I went to an orthopedic doctor who said that I had bursitis and gave me cortisone injections (which really helped for a couple of days). I was referred to a neurologist who looked at me and said that my nerves were fine but he thought he might know what was wrong. He rand all of the testing and referred me to Ohio State University Rheumatology. I have been to Dr. Badhan and Dr. Hackshaw 3 times now and I finally received the diagnosis of AS on 5/2/12. I am not sad or bitter about my disease and I would not change anything because it has helped me to become a better daughter, sister, wife, and mother. I am a physical therapist and AS is helping me to change lives because I can understand what my patients are going through and I have great compassion for them. At first, many people do not believe me when I tell them that I know and understand how they are feeling because I look so young, healthy, and fit. AS actually brings me closer to my patients. I absolutely love my job and helping other people. Focusing on something else helps me to forget about myself and realize that it could always be WORSE. I have seen people who are unable to speak or move following debilitating strokes and young people who are bedridden with feeding tubes and so many other horrible things. I am so thankful to the amazing doctors who believed in me and were able to diagnose me. After being told that I must either be fabricating my pain or that I must be depressed (that’s apparently why I was so exhausted and hurting all the time) because people my age shouldn’t have so much pain, I finally gave up and tried to manage. I try my hardest not to bother anyone else or know that I am hurting. I like to be positive and help others and that actually is better for my pain than any NSAID!

Anyhow, I am so thankful to finally be able to treat this condition and move on as best as I can so that I can continue to help others who are less fortunate. I am waiting for my health insurance company to approve me for the 50mg Enbrel sureclick injections once a week. Hopefully I will be able to start that next week. I am also taking meloxicam 7.5mg once a day but that seems to be ineffective right now. I feel that I am truly blessed to spend each day on Earth helping others and loving my family. I was told that I might never be able to have children and I had a beautiful little girl. I have fought through many things in a short period of time but I am thankful for things all shape me into who I have become. I love my life and everything in it, including my family and yes….even AS! I have something to fight now so I better get busy!!! May God bless you all and bring you many GREAT days filled with lots of love and healing!

Leigh Pierce,

Ohio United States of America

2 Responses to “A.S. Face 0406: Leigh Pierce”

  1. WEll, Well, Well,. A physical therapist from the house of pain. That’s my nickname for physical therapy. Just kiding leigh!!!! I’ve been to physical therapy four times and it didn’t he;p me. Not saying it might help someone. But My PT was a great guy ( I consider him a freind) who told me that AS isn’t a “muscle/skeletal problem but an inflammation problem”. We tried everthing under the sun, but when the doc asked “what aggravates it”-“I shot back, PT”. my PT asked me what made it feel better, and I said “driving around on the back roads of my local forest”. So the PT put me on my side, knee tucked up, left hand on hip, and had my girlfreind put her hand on my hip and gently rock me back and forth. OHH-H-H THAT MADE MY SacroIliac feel good. GEntle mobes.

    On the very bright side Leigh, you’re in a position to help diagnose AS. “MY” PT sent many a patient back to the doctor with a possible AS diagnosis. Like he said;;”PT’s handle joints all day, they can tell when one isn’t moving right”. He could tell when my ribs were fused.

    Thanks for joining Cookie in this endeavor Leigh. I hate to say it, but it’s nice to have a medical professional as one on us. And you’ve got a very cute “something to live for” in you arms. Very cute.

  2. Dear Leigh,
    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I love the fact that you are taking something negative and turning it into something positive that will benefit you and your patients. Amazing.
    Sincerely Cookie

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