My name is David Heflin and I am a 37 year old Christian minister living in Portales, NM. At the beginning of 2011, I started Taekwondo with my oldest son. I was inspired to be working out again and lost thirty pounds, as I also began training for a 10K. In mid-March, during kicking drills, I felt a sharp pain in my left hip. A few days later the same thing happened on my right side. At the time, I just thought they were just muscle strains and went on with my activities.
At first, things didn’t get much worse and I just had occasional reminders that I wasn’t healed. I finished my first belt test and ran my 10K, without a lot of problems. I first began to believe I had a significant problem when, after a couple of months rest, the injury felt as if I had never rested it a day. The pain in my left hip was significantly worse than the pain in my right, but the symptoms were the same. By October, I saw my first two doctors, my general and a sports doctor.
The initial diagnosis was tendinosis. However, none of the home rehab and subsequent injections did anything. My first MRI, in January of 2012, revealed nothing. Seeing that the sports doctor intended to treat it the same way, despite the lack of progress, we finally got a second opinion from an orthopedic surgeon. He immediately began to talk about hip impingement (FAI) and a labral tear. We tried an intra-articular hip injection, which did, at least, prove the pain was coming from my hip. Another MRI (but this time with an arthrogram) revealed a significant labral tear in the left hip, but along with an x-ray, arthritis in both hips was revealed.
I was referred to yet another doctor for arthroscopic hip surgery to repair the labral and correct the impingement issues. If all went well, the right hip would follow. In pre-surgery consultation, the new x-rays revealed fused SI joints with complete fusion on the right. This is the first time a doctor ever said the words “ankylosingspondalitis” to me. My blood tests, including HLA-B27, came back negative and I thought that was the end of it. But on the day of my surgery, the doctor told me he wasn’t convinced and that something was going on. He did the surgery and referred me to a rheumatologist.
Though the surgery was technically successful, it did not relieve my pain, which I now know is due to inflammation. When I finally saw the rheumatologist she informed me that with my symptoms, x-rays—completely fused right SI joint, MRI’s, and family history (Dad has psoriasis, brother has Chrohn’s, Mom has ulcerative colitis—In other words, we are an autoimmune mess!) that I was basically a “slam dunk” A.S. diagnosis even with the HLA-B27 negative.
Since then there have been a lot of ups and downs. Enbrel was effective at first, but then began to fade. On Simponi now and neither biologic has been particularly effective. I have joint pain and enthesitis throughout my body. My hips are the worst and now a rare form of inflammation has been discovered in my GI track. Currently, I am scheduled for a liver biopsy and may be sent to the Mayo clinic, if we can’t get to the bottom of it.
My pain is level is usually manageable but so widespread. I am resolute, however, that no matter what may come, my God, my family, and my church will go through it with me.
New Mexico United States of America