A.S. Face 0505: Rhonda McGrath

My name is Rhonda McGrath and I am 48 years old.  I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondilitis in May 2012. After having my 5th child who is now 14, I became really sick.  The day after I was discharged from the hospital I came down with  a high fever and a rash on my inner thigh. I went to the ER and they admitted me. I was told I had Cellulitis and after running more tests was told I had a Strep A blood infection, Toxic Shock Syndrome and Necrotizing Fasciitis. (my back was swollen and the skin was peeling off) Infectious disease doctors were called in and they told my hubby and I there was a 60% mortality rate. I had just given birth to my 5th child and they were telling me I might die! I spent 17 days in the hospital, about 10 of those in ICU before they finally got things under control.
After returning home, all of my joints hurt so bad I couldn’t hold my newborn or change her diapers. Everything hurt! For the next 3 months I went back and forth to doctors who all said it was remnants from all I had been through. Finally, my husband went with me and ordered something to be done. After months of horrible pain, they sent me to a Rheumatologist who after one look at my blood work told me I had Rheumatic Fever.  I was treated for 3 or 4 months and told I could end up with heart trouble later in life due to the Rheumatic Fever and that I should get checked ever few years by a Cardiologist.
Since then, I have never been pain free and have been in and out of physical therapy, had shoulder surgery, and been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I knew deep down it had to be more than Fibromyalgia but doctors always blamed my pain on that. About 6 months ago I felt a hard lump on my sternum and went to the doctor. She ordered a CT Scan which showed new bone growth and after several months of tests (CT’s, a Nuclear Bone Scan and MRI’s) I was told I had AS. It was a relief to finally get a diagnosis. I have flare ups that last about 2-3 months at the time. I am on Humira injections and it seems to helping some.
I am thankful to have found this website and enjoy reading others stories. You are all an inspiration to me!

Virginia United States of America


9 Responses to “A.S. Face 0505: Rhonda McGrath”

  1. And now you’re an inspiration to others! And to me! I feed on these stories.
    PS: recognise the building with the clock on it in the background. It was out my window at the Marriot Marquesas, times square, Thanksgiving, 1995. TThe baloons floated by my window.

  2. Thanks Derek! I like reading others experiences too! Everyone has their own unique story and it’s interesting to read how AS has affected each person. I’m glad we are all here for each other:)

  3. Thank you for sharing your story! Can I just ask you, how big was this lump that you felt on your sternum? I was diagnosed with AS several months ago, but I have discovered 2 pea-sized lumps on my sternum. Haven’t gone in to see the doctor yet. Wondering if it is AS-related or something else.

    • Hi Kim, I actually have 3 different areas with lumps, 2 on my collar bone and one on my sternum. They are all about the size of a large gum ball. I have always had a lot of pain and stiffness in those areas but no lumps until recently. My doctors always said it was costochronditis. Do you have pain there as well? Are the lumps hard? If so, it is probably related to the AS but you should definitely talk to your rheumy about it.

  4. Rhonda – The lumps themselves are tender to touch. One is about the size of a marble. The other is difficult to feel, as I had a breast reduction several years ago, so there is scar tissue in the area. But I can feel that it is tender as well. Both are along side of my sternum, one on each side, almost between the breast and sternum. The one that I can feel is definitely hard. I thought it might be related to this bronchitis that I am battling. I called my PCP and spoke with him over the phone about it, and he did not feel that it was related. My initial thought was perhaps an enlarged lymph node of some sort, but I get bronchitis pretty frequently, and I have never had one there. Heck, I don’t even know if you can get swollen lymph nodes in that area! I was supposed to stop in my PCP’s office on Friday to have him look at it, but I was held up at another appt and couldn’t make it over in time. I figured I’d give it a few days and see if it goes away on it’s own, but they do not seem to be getting any better.

    • Kim, let me know what the doctor says. They should probably X-ray that area. If you don’t mind me asking, what meds are you on?

      • I feel terrible…I haven’t even gotten to see my doctor about it yet. Two of my kids have been sick, so I completely forgot about it. The lump that I can feel is no longer tender, but it is still there. I am currently on Methotrexate and Prednisone. I was on Humira up until mid-June. My rheumy is switching me over to Remicade soon.

  5. Dear Rhonda,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.
    Sincerely Cookie

  6. Dear Rhoda,
    How you been doing right now? You are an inspiration. Hoping you get well.

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