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My AS Story
Brett Connelly 

G'day mates , I'm a 41 year old Aussie who has had A.S. since my teens. I was a very fit and physical person with a hell of an active life racing dirt bikes, stock cars, I managed to reach second degree black belt in 'wing chun -iron palm' kung fu. I worked as a butcher when I left school and traveled by 750cc bike everywhere. But while all this was going on I had mystery pains all the time that I could not explain. Such as very swollen and tender heels, which forced me to cut the backs out of all my shoes and walk on my toes for 18 months. Among other pains I contracted Iritis at the age of 21 and the specialist kept asking how my back was. ''The ****** back's fine mate just fix me eye will yah'' . As at this stage the back was fine. It was the inflamation of the knees that gave me hell for ages. I had 3 treetments of radioactive itrium injected, which helped aliviate the pain for a while.

When I hade an arthroscopy on my knee the surgeon found I had Arthritis and put me onto a rumo' .By now I was 26 and finally diagnosed and carrying the hla-b27 positive gene. Exrays were taken of my sacrum and showd tell tail signs of AS, but my back was only stiff after sitting in a car after work. By this time I was working the family farm as well as shearing sheep for a living) Which ment I spent all day with my head lower than my bum and dragged a dead wheight of about 130 lb backwards 140 times a day.

By the time I was 29 I could not walk as the pain was too bad in my right hips. In the space of 3 years my hips went from perfect to absolutely *******ed and had to be replaced. 3 years later the knees were replaced. 3 more years and my left shoulder was replaced. So at 33 I had 5 artificial joints.
In between all that happening the back took me through hell and back while it took time to fuse. The worst pain ever is the neck fusing and re-breaking when you get the slightest of jolts. Sitting on the edge of the bed at 4am with tears from the pain running down the face was common place cause it was a waste of time trying to sleep. Now at 41 my wrists are 70% fused, toes and ankles totaly fused, back and neck are fused. The other shoulder is beyond repair or replacement as are the elbows. To talk of the pain in all different forms and stages of the last 20 years will fill a book.

Every medic I went to said that I have this A.S. very aggressively and with all the fruit (symtoms) The only anti-inflamitries that work are voltaren, I am also on Arava and I take 10mg of prendisalone every second day. Without this I cannot walk let alone get out of bed.
Today I am pain free in the neck and the back, the ankles are like walking with knives stuck in the side, the elbows are giving me heaps just typing this. I always layed down at midday (still do) and taught myself to sleep on me back right from the start of being diagnosed, and thanks to that my spine is nearly straight and the neck is not curved down as bad as it could be.

I got sick of every one telling me 'to go on a pension'- 'get on sickness benifits' - you should'nt be doing that in your condition' So I gave up farm work when I was 36 and started my computer sign business from home, making signs, banners etc as well as that I taught myself to use the Airbrush as well as that I turned my hobby of cartooning into a side of the business. Keeping active without over doing it is the key to survival. Watching videos or tv on the weekend is a no-no for me.

I used to be able to put my chin on my shins now I can't reach my shins with my hands. I would be the complete opposite to my former self, but I am happy with life in my little town, just doing what I can do. When I lose my sense of humour I will be in trouble.
Above all I allways position myself with Happy people when I go out, as whingers only make the aches get worse. The only thing I fear is falling over.
I breath in and I breath out - so lifes not that bad (after all,every one of us will be dead in 100 years)

Brett Connelly
Western Australia

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