My name is Kim Pelham and I am 41 years old. I live in Southern Colorado and I have AS. I was diagnosed in 2012 after an attempted knee replacement surgery. I have had low back pain since high school but I was a “farm girl” who hauled hay and grain for livestock so always thought the pain was related to the physical activity.
In 2010, I twisted my knee and the pain would get better for a few months, then the pain and swelling would come back. By fall 2011, I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon who gave me a knee brace and told me to use a cane. I used the brace and cane for about six months with no improvement.
I started favoring the knee with the brace, which caused all kinds of problems. I saw a physical therapist who recommended massage therapy. I started getting a 30 min massage every week. The massage therapist kept focusing on a spot right above my knee. She kept telling me “this doesn’t feel right”. Turns out, the brace had actually damaged the muscle in my upper thigh and she could feel the damage.
In August 2012, I checked into the hospital for a total knee replacement. As sad as it sounds, I was so excited. I was only 37 years old, but I was so tired of walking like I was 87. I woke up in the recovery room and was told that I still had my knee. The surgeon went on to say that once he opened my knee, he saw a lot of stagnant fluid that looked infected so he couldn’t not do the surgery. He said they used 7 liters of saline to flush all the gunk out and sewed me back up. He also said that he removed a section of my thigh muscle that had atrophied. I asked from where and he pointed to the exact spot my massage therapist always focused on.
I was discharged two days later and was told to make an appointment with a rheumatologist. The crazy thing is, my knee felt so much better.
I finally got to see a rheumy in November 2012. He sent orders for MRIs and blood work before the appointment, so the first thing he said was, “You have Ankylosing Spondylitis.” He gave me some pamphlets to take home and recommended I start on biologics right away. He said that my MRI showed inflammation in the SI joints and I was HLA-B27 positive.
I started Humira that next month and have been on it since. It has been a lifesaver. I still work 40 hours a week. I have an amazing boyfriend who is very supportive. He officiates football, basketball and baseball for the local schools and the City leagues. I am an amateur photographer, so I go with him and take pictures.
I know there may come a time when I can’t be this active, but I am not there yet.
Right now, I am kicking AS.