After I was diagnosed with Reactive Arthritis while I was in Brazil things got better. I was pain free and symptom free for several years. I returned home from Brazil in May of 1997 and resumed normal life (meaning...life not as a missionary). I went back to college and graduated from a junior college and met a wonderful, wonderful woman. We started dating and in December of 1998 we got married. Until this point I was still symptom free and had only had the one fight with Reactive Arthritis.
After my wife and I were married we lived in Denver, Colorado. I attended The University of Colorado and graduated in 2001. During that time while I was attending University of Colorado we had our first child. Life was busy, but good. I was working nearly full time, taking a full load of classes and my wife was working as well. Luckily I was able to work from home and spend all day with my son as I worked and watched him. Reactive Arthritis was a thing of the past. I had no symptoms or pain. I graduated from CU in August of 2001 (completing my 4 year Bachelors of Science - Information Systems degree) in only 2 years. To celebrate my graduation my wife and I decided to go on a trip to Cancun, Mexico. So in August of 2001 my parents to our child for the week and we were off to Cancun. Cancun was a blast. We did a lot of fun activities and just relaxed by the beach. Unfortunately, the second to last day that we were there we went to the swap meet and I got sick from eating something there. It was definitely food poisoning, but it was not nearly as bad as what I had in Brazil. At this point I was still oblivious to the fact that I had the genetic marker HLA-B27 or what Reactive Arthritis really was. I just knew I got sick in Brazil, had a lot of pain and got better. I never linked everything together at this point. Well, we came back to the US and I got feeling better within a day or so and continued on with life.
September 11, 2001...a day that will live in infamy forever. I happened to be working on finishing my basement in out house in Denver that day. I woke up and headed downstairs to work. When I got up out of bed, my feet were tender, especially my toes. My ankle was also a bit sore as well, but I didn't really think anything about it all, I obviously had other things going through my head that day. A few days passed and my toes were getting really sore and swollen. I decided I better go to the Dr. to get it checked out. The Dr. did some tests and asked a lot of questions, then a group of Dr's came in and did more tests and more questions. Finally they came back to me and explained to me what I had. I began to put everything together. That is when Reactive Arthritis really became my reality. For nearly the next 4 years I fought constant pain, I was taking Indomethicin and Advil. If I missed even one single dose, I could nearly not even function. I could barely walk if I missed taking my medication once. I was on a 3 times a day schedule. I was very concerned about what was happening to my stomach with all these medications! It was horrible. I tried eating better and exercising regularly, which helped out a lot. Over that 4 year period it was a very trying time. We also had another child during that time, a daughter.
From 2001 - 2005 I dealt with major symptoms of Reactive Arthritis. I am a very active and outgoing person. I was constantly hiding the fact that I am in constant pain. I would go Snowboarding with my wife and nephews a lot, the whole time cringing with pain. I loved to play basketball and football and swim, etc the whole time thinking to myself, "how am I going to to this." I vividly remember going to my Sister-In-Laws house to help them paint a room. I forgot my medicine and the entire time I was in so much pain that I thought I was going to die. I learned very quickly to carry extra medicine with me at all times. During that time we also moved from Denver to Utah where I was offered a job with a software company. We moved to Utah in 2003. Life was great, except for Reactive Arthritis. I began the reality that this pain may never, ever go away. I accepted it as reality.
Suddenly, as quickly as it presented itself, Easter weekend of 2005 the pain went away. It was shocking. I am not sure what happened, but my body finally decided enough was enough and the pain went away. It was the first time in 4 years that I did not need medicine to function.
The pain was gone, but not entirely forever. It is now 2012 and I have lapses of pain and sometimes a lot less severe pain. There have been days or weeks where the pain is severe and I have a hard time walking and doing things. But for the most part, I have been able to manage it with good diet and exercise. Typically the worst part if waking up with back pain and hip pain. Usually once I get moving and stretched out I am ok. I am not completely sure if it is active Reactive Arthritis or if it is actually just joint damage from the years of Reactive Arthritis. Needless to say, the whole time I have been dealing with this my wife has been my greatest supporter. I usually do not say or acknowledge anything when I am dealing with an flare up of Arthritis. But she has always been supportive of me. Life has moved along, I now have 4 kids and they are all healthy and happy.
From this point in my history I want to focus on maintaining my Blog with current events and things that are happening and things I am doing to maintain a relative pain free life with dealing with Reactive Arthritis.
February 17, 2012
So the last 4 weeks I have been trying something new. My wife went to a cooking class and one of the instructors there started talking about joint pain that he had in his knees and that he started taking Trace Mineral drops daily and within 24 hours his knees were feeling better. So I did a little research and went to the local Health Food store and bought some. I started taking 1/2 teaspoon daily. All I can say is WOW! I am not even joking within the first 24 hours my hip and back started feeling better. I have been dealing with back pain for about 8 years now every morning when I wake up. 5 out of 7 nights it was bad enough that it would wake me up. Since I started taking these drops about 4 weeks ago, I have only been awakened by back pain 2 times. I will say that occasionally the Arthritis flare up is still somewhat painful, but over all It has almost been like a miracle drug, but it isn't a drug! My hip has not hurt at all in the last 4 weeks. I hurt my neck one night and I though for sure it was going to be a week long recovery, but I took the drops and the next morning I was 95% pain free and by that evening I did not have any pain at all. I told my dad about it who has knee problems and after 2 days he also noticed a huge difference in his joint pain in his knees (Fortunately, he does not have Reactive Arthritis like myself) I am sold on the trace mineral drops. I will be using them daily from now on!
I was in a city in the Pantanal of Brazil called Caceres, in the State of Mato Grosso. The Pantanal is a very beautiful area of dense jungles and hot, humid weather. It may be one of the hottest places in all of Brazil. I was a missionary for my church down there, just a young 19 year old kid. I was having a blast, I had many friends that I had met and was able to speak the Portuguese language very well. I had been in Caceres for about 4 months and the President of my Mission came to visit us and took us to a Churrascaria restaurant in the Caceres. It was a great meal, especially for missionaries as we were not accustomed to eating at restaurants. We ate like crazy and went home. Little did I know at that time that meal would change my life forever.
The next morning, we got up as normal to go and teach some people we had met earlier in the week. We had bikes in that area and so we rode about 6 to 8 blocks to the small, humble home in which we were going. Shortly after arriving (about at 10:00 am) I began to feel uneasy. I rapidly began to deteriorate, within 10 minutes of first feeling sick I was telling the other missionary with me that we had to leave immediately as I was feeling terribly ill. I don't really remember what we said or how we left that home, I only vaguely remember riding our bikes back to our house.
Once we were back at our house I was in a serious daze for the next 3 days. I remember at one point one of my friends came over to see how I was doing and when he realized I was really sick he ran off into the jungle and brought me back some sort of plant concoction and told me to drink it with a 2 liter bottle of coconut water. I think that made it even worse! To this day I detest coconut water and the smell of it! I felt as if I were in a cloud of crazy dreams and not in reality. Finally I was in some serious danger and I was taken to the local hospital and received fluids via IV and some medication. I don't know what the medication was, I was dazed and confused with utter sickness and everyone was speaking in Portuguese medical terms so I only understood a portion of what was being said. The sickness broke on about day 4 and I started to get feeling better. Within a week I was able to continue doing the missionary work that I was in Brazil to do.
A few weeks later I was transferred from Caceres to a city called Cidade Ocidental, which was on the outskirts of Brasilia, D.F., Brazil. It is about a 17 hour bus ride from Caceres to outskirts Ocidental once you factor in all the stops along the way. So I packed all my belongings and caught the bus to Cd. Ocidental. About 8 hours into the trip my eyes started burning and feeling like I had dust in them. I passed it off as me being exhausted and decided to sleep it off. I slept fairly good on the bus that night, but my joints started to ache a little. I thought that was again exhaustion and continued to ignore it.
My first night in Cidade Ocidental is when Reactive Arthritis hit me hard and changed my life forever. I woke up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain. I felt like I was on that movie Misery, where Kathy Bates smashes the writers ankles with the sledge hammer. Yeah, that is what it felt like. I remember thinking I broke my ankles. I couldn't remember what I could have done to do that, but that was the only explanation that I could come up with. It was so painful it was simply horrible. Over the next few days I could do nothing but lay in bed and take Advil, I thought it would pass eventually. But it didn't it actually got worse. The pain began to migrate to my hips, shoulders, feet and toes, wrist, knuckles and back.
I finally called our leader of the missionaries and he came and picked me up and took me into Brasilia and went to a doctor. This is where the diagnosis became interesting. I was an American living in Brazil. I spoke Portuguese, but I didn't know any of the medical terms. Luckily, I had a Brazilian/American with me. He spoke perfect English and perfect Portuguese. I spent several days getting a multitude of tests done on me. Every time a test was done and the results came back, we would fax the results to Doctors and Specialists in Salt Lake City, Utah at the University of Utah Medical Center. They would then ask for another set of tests and I would translate that to Portuguese and ask the Brazilian doctors to run those tests. Eventually they diagnosed me with Reactive Arthritis, back then it was more commonly referred to as Reiter's Syndrome. I was put on heavy medication (unfortunately I do not recall the medication name). I took the medications for about 3 - 4 months and the pain went away completely. During that span however, I would walk nearly 5 - 10 miles a day doing missionary work. I loved it so much, I did not want to leave Brazil. I loved the country and the people I was interacting with so much I sucked it up and didn't tell anyone what kind of pain I was in because I wanted to stay in Brazil so bad. Eventually, the pain went away and I finished up my two years of service in Brazil without further incidents of Reactive Arthritis.
I had a pretty normal childhood, nothing out of the ordinary, I had a lot of friends, and did all the typical things kids did growing up. I loved, I mean absolutely loved sports, Football in particular. I played football during every recess. I loved (and still do) the Dallas Cowboys. I also liked baseball and basketball. I was a pretty good athlete. I made all star teams and did the usual tournaments etc. I also really liked BMX racing. I was actually quite good at BMX racing. I raced on several teams and won many races and had a room full of trophies. I actually peaked at my BMX career at about age 12 or 13 when I was ranked in the top 20 (#19 to be exact) in the National standings for my age bracket. Unfortunately, the track that we raced on closed down and that ended my BMX career because of the expense of traveling to different cities each week made it too hard. That was about 1988. I really wish that could have kept going, but it was not meant to be I guess.
Well, in 1990 things would take a turn for me in my life. On June 9, 1990 I was travelling back from a youth conference with a leader and six other youths (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/106545/VAN-CAR-CRASH-IN-DUCHESNE-KILLS-2-ROOSEVELT-RESIDENTS.html?s_cid=s10) We were involved in a car accident and unortunately two of my friends passed away. That time was a trying time for me in my life. I was 14 years old and I ended up being flown to Salt Lake City on a Life Flight and was in ICU for 4 days and in the hospital a total of 7 days. I had fractured my skull in 4 places, broken 3 ribs and was left with a scar about 7 inches long across my forehead. I required multiple surgeries in the hospital and multiple subsequent more after I left the hospital. Luckily, I was extremely blessed and was able to recover fully from that accident physically. There is still rarely a day that passes that I do not think of my friends that passed away and the pain and suffering that I went through during that time of my life.
The years passed and graduated High School with very good grades, I then decided to serve a full time mission for my church. I was called to go to Brazil. I was super excited and in April 1995 I left for a mission. I was able to learn Portuguese well enough to speak and communicate with Brazilians in about 2 months of intense study and then left for Brasilia, Brazil.
I got to Brazil and immediately fell in love with the Brazilian people and culture. Things were going great, I made many friends in Brazil (many of which I stil talk to on a regular basis). I lived in a few different cities throughout the Centro Oeste (Central West) of Brazil.
Life again threw me a curve ball, this time it would be another life altering event that would change my life forever again. I was living in Caceres, Mato Grosso, Brazil and a bout with food poisoning would change the course forever.