A.S. Face 0778: Fez Riches
G’day my name is Fez Riches im 30yrs old, from Melbourne Australia.
I’ve been suffering A.S in my hips, lower back, knees, lungs and bowels since I was around 12 but wasn’t diagnosed until I was 19.
During those years I was a very active person playing many sports such as high jump at state level, soccer, Basketball, aggressive inline skating, cricket and cross country running. Having been heavily involved in all these things (especially skating) I coped a large amount of injuries and the doctors usually blamed them for all my aches and pains.
My First major flare up came on my 19th (2002) birthday when I woke up at 4am screaming and unable to move my hips and back. The week leading up to this I was stiff and sore, but I just thought it was due to a big fall while skating and the flu I had. I was rushed off to the hospital where they told me I had most likely pinched a nerve and I should just ice and rest the inflamed areas.
2 weeks later and still unable to walk without crutches I went to see a local GP and after listing all my symptoms for about 5 mins he said
“Good news and bad, you have a famous disease called A.S the same one that Daniel Johns (Singer/Guitarist of Silverchair) has. The bad news is, it’s a life time thing and most likely will get worse.”
He sent me off for scans and blood tests, which all showed that he was right. He also said to check my family history, which I was surprised to see several relatives also had been suffering from A.S.
The news really hit hard. I was thinking that all the sports and things that I enjoy could be taken away from me. I was put on some heavy anti-inflammatory’s and sent on my way. For a while they worked well and I was still able to skate and move around, but nowhere near the same level as before the flare up. Gradually the pain and stiffness crept back in and during really cold days the pain was so intense it would floor me for days.
At the age of 22 I started to work in an aluminum foundry where the environment was nice and hot; the average temp in winter was about 30 degrees celsius and in summer around 48 to 55 and that helped a lot. At this point I developed breathing problems, which I thought was from the dusty and fume filled work place and my smoking didn’t help. A few years later I was told that it was part of my A.S that my lungs where swelling up against my rib cage making it hard to breath.
I’ve felt some form of pain or stiffness everyday since my 19th birthday flare up. Some days are worse than others, but its always there. I had a really good few years from 21 to 26, where I could still do all the things I loved doing without much trouble and a very small amount of meds. I even started to roadie for several bands traveling the country nearly once a month. During which, I only had very few minor flare ups.
2011 saw the Birth of my son in January. Then in March 1 week out from my birthday (again) I felt the onset of a flare up. I couldn’t stand up straight, lift my neck, breath properly, or even walk. At 11pm it became too much and my wife called an ambo. They came and had to lift me out of bed. I was in hospital for 2 weeks on strong pain meds and a range of anti-inflammatory’s. At one point they put me in an MIR scan and had to pull me out due to the screaming and pain I was in.
This by far was the most pain I have ever felt and even though all the morphine and other pain killers I could still feel the swelling. This Flare up cost me dearly, I missed 2 weeks with my new born son, my own birthday, 5 weeks of work, one of the greatest music festivals, which I was looking forward too for a months, and 2 Paintball tournaments.
Since that flare up I’ve been on daily Meds, which have helped a lot but my movements have been restricted and flare ups happen a lot more regularly. I do loose out on a lot more work and events these days. Having said that I have found activities and things that bring me as much joy and happiness as the things that my A.S have taken away from me. My wife and child (and another one on the way) friends and family being the greatest source of happiness and strength to keep going on and paintball comps hahaha.