Hi, my name is Jamie Young and I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondlylitis almost three years ago when I was 28. I live in Texas.
Before the age of 23, I was healthy and did not get sick very often and I was very active. I would jog in P.E. class and spend hours jumping on my trampoline when I was in my teens.
In late October 2005, my left eye started hurting. It was midterm week and I thought it was just one of my migraines or just stress, so I did not think much of it. Over the next few days, my eye hurt even more and I went to my family doctor about it. He said that I had pink eye. I had to miss class for a few days and take antibiotics. A few days later, on November 4, 2005; my eye was a lot worse and my family doctor sent me to an ophthalmologist who diagnosed me with uveitis, an eye disease that can lead to blindness if not treated properly. I had blood work done and chest x rays done. My eye disease was so severe that I was going to the ophthalmologist every few days and taking a lot of medicine around the clock for several weeks. I was a student at Cy Fair College at the time and it was not easy to keep up with my studies and go to the eye doctor every few days. The tests came out negative. In early December 2005, my eye was healed and I passed all of my classes that semester. I thought that would be the end of my health issues. From December 2005 until February 2007, I was healthy and happy.
In February 2007, I was finishing my last semester at Cy Fair College and was excited about graduation. My joints started to hurt, my hair was falling out, my feet were swelling and I felt tired all of the time. At the time, I was taking dance aerobics, yoga and I was working out at the college’s gym on a regular basis. My family doctor told me to cut back on the exercising when I saw him over spring break. I decided to wait until after graduation to go see another doctor about my health issues. I was able to finish the semester and graduated with my Associate’s Degree on May 12, 2007. My feet were so swollen and aching on graduation day that I had to wear loose fitting shoes with my cap and gown.
I went to another doctor a few weeks later and I had many tests done. Tests showed that I was anemic and that my Vitamin B-12 and vitamin D levels were low. The doctor thought that my health issues were due to these vitamin deficiencies, but she referred me to a rheumatologist. One good part of the summer of 2007, was that I was accepted into Houston Baptist University. I was excited about finishing my studies over there. I was frustrated about how the doctor could not figure out what was going on with my health. I had to wait for a few months to see the first rheumatologist. I started my first quarter with nine hours. My career goal was to work with children in a school setting or a in a child care center. I was doing school observations at various schools. My professors and the teacher I was working with were flexible and understanding when I had to keep doctor visits. Again, the rheumatologist was unable to find anything that was going on with my health, except that I had some inflammation in my feet, spine and I wad in pain. In spring of 2008, I started physical therapy to try to improve the mobility of my neck. I would have physical therapy in the morning and go to class in the afternoon.
In the summer of 2008, I decided to go see an orthopedist. He did more x rays and an MRI of my spine. I had some arthritis between my fifth and sixth vertebrae of my spine. I had more physical therapy and I also received a TENS unit. I finished my physical therapy during the first week of the Fall semester of 2008. I was still frustrated about how I did not know exactly what was going on. Meanwhile, I decided to focus on working towards my degree, even though I was in pain and felt tired all of the time. I did not see any more doctors until September 2009.
During the first week of September of 2009, my right eye turned red and it felt like sandpaper. I went back to the ophthalmologist on September 9, 2009. It turned out that I had uveitis, but I caught it early, so I did not have to take as much medicine as I did four years before. The doctor also told me about how my second bout with uveitis could be related to an autoimmune disease, but she did not want to put me through the tests. (She also asked me if I was experiencing problems with my joints and I also told her that I saw a rheumatologist). At the time I was taking sixteen hours of classes and I was getting close to graduating, so I also did not want to miss too many classes to see another doctor. At the end of September, I came down with a bad case of bronchitis and ended up in Urgent Care. My eye was finally healed at the end of October. It took me until the end of November to get rid of my cough from the bronchitis. I was able to finish my classes and I made two A’s, three B’s and one C. It was not easy to tackle school work and not feel well.
I put my focus on finishing my classes during the spring of 2010. I also had to take summer courses for nine weeks so I could graduate the next spring. I was starting to have recurring fevers, aching and swelling joints and feel tired. I also had flu like symptoms and was losing weight for no reason. I went to my summer school classes for nine weeks and studied ebpven though I was not feeling well. A few days before the final exams for summer school, my right eye was starting to bother me again. As soon as I got through with my finals, I set up an appointment with my eye doctor, who saw me the next day. I simply had a mild eye strain and had to take medicine for a week. I also was scheduled to see a new rheumatologist a week and a half later on August 25, 2010. The week that I saw my new doctor was a busy week. I started my fall courses and I was getting ready to start my practicum in a Kindergarten class in the Houston Independent School District and I was excited about it. I also saw the new rheumatologist on August 25, he examined me, took a lot of x rays, had me do blood work and he told me that he would figure out what was going on. I was glad to have the test behind me and I had to wait until mid September for a possible diagnosis. I carried on with my classes even though I felt bad.
On September 5, 2010, I woke up with my left knee swollen and I could not even bend it. I was scared that I had a blood clot in my leg, so I went to the emergency room. I had x rays done to rule out fractures. The x ray showed that I had a lot of fluid on my knee and that I had to have it drained by an orthopedic surgeon. I had the excess fluid drained three days later and I had to keep my knee bandaged while I was awake until the swelling went down.
On September 17, 2010, I got the official diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis. It was one of the worst days of my life, but I was glad to find out what was going on with my body. I found out how I would always need to have a medical treatment to keep the disease under control for the rest of my life. I was to start iV treatments a few weeks later and would need them every few months. One thing that kept me from feeling depressed about how AS would change my life was working with the kindergarteners. I assisted the teacher, tutored some of the children, and sometimes read to them. I worked with these children until towards the end of November. I enjoyed working with the kindergarteners and they were a great bunch of children to be around.
Once I started my IV treatments, I started to feel better again and I have not experienced any more joint swelling. It took me about six months to adjust to the medicines. I decided that I would be happy working as a classroom aide or in a library at an elementary school as a career choice.
On a happy note, I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in General Studies on May 14, 2011 (on what would have been my late grandmother’s 98th birthday). Through this experience, I have learned that you can pursue your goals under obstacles if you persevere.
Texas, United States of America