Julie Walker Merkle
I’ve had AS since I was 21…I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 27, after seeing numerous doctors. Finally I was sent to a rheumatologist, and I do carry the gene and he found the damage in my SI joints and I was finally diagnosed. Oddly enough, it felt like a bit of relief to finally know what was wrong with me. I was on Mobic, a prescription NSAID for a couple of years and a week after I got married in 2007, I was rushed to the hospital and had emergency surgery to repair a perforated stomach and intestines caused by the medicine…I truly almost lost my life, infection had spread to my heart and I spent a couple of weeks in ICU and then in a regular room. I went home with open wounds on my incision and couldn’t return to work for months. I had two follow up surgeries. With NSAIDs ruled out, I was put on pain management, spinal injections and pain meds. Over a year ago, I fell into a deep abyss of depression and anxiety, a lot if it due to pain depression. I gave up on myself and prior to that I was no longer able to work. It hurt my marriage very badly, this disease is not one that even your partner can fully fathom. I hope that our separation ends, but I’m just taking one day at a time. It also hurt a lot of my friendships. I stopped my pain meds over three months ago and started Humira a few weeks ago. My SI joints are fused and I have significant damage to my lumbar spine, hips and knees. My depression is so much better, I’ve been doing everything I can to better my physical, emotional and mental health, one step at a time, not knowing what each day will bring. But living back home with family and having their support and some other extremely supportive family members and old and new friends helps. I make it a point to try to laugh and smile, have fun, go out and enjoy the little things, because life can turn on a dime.
Julie Walker Merkle, 37 years old.
New York, United States of America