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Dave Ledbetter's Installment
David Leadbetter

I was born in January of 1966, just a puppy here. I was born in Rock Hill South Carolina. A big kid too, almost 11 lbs. And 22 inches long. My poor mother. My parents moved to Columbia S.C. Then in 1970 they got divorced then my mother took my two older brothers and me to Baltimore to live. Then we moved again when I was 5 to North Carolina. We lived there for 4 years. Seems like it was forever almost all my memories of growing up are of that place. We lived in a two-bedroom trailer. My mom worked in a factory for proctor silex. And also held a part-time job as a waitress. I guess that is when I started having problems physically. I fell off a 12 foot roof and also had a heavy counter top fall on me in the same year. After I fell from the roof I lost motion in my legs. And could not walk for a week. I still remember my mother holding me at two in the morning over the toilet so I could pee. ( gee what memories uh? ) Anyhow I got back my strength in my legs. And my mom was told to keep me off caffeine products and limit my physical activities. I was only like 7 back then so I don't remember having to much pain. In 1975 we moved back to Baltimore area to live next to my grandparents. So my mom could raise us with some help from them. My Grandpa treated me like gold for the next year. He was the greatest person I shall ever know. he died in 1976. ( I can't believe I still cry when I speak about him). I really miss him I wish he was still here to see my son. My oldest brother left to go live with my dad. That is a whole story in it self. ( drugs, drugs, state hospital, attempted suicide, etc..).

In 1976 we, being my mother, grandmother, and my other brother moved to Florida. My Grandmother went through a bunch of cancer therapy for the next year or two. She got somewhat better, so we all moved out and got our own place. It would be 1979 now, my oldest brother moved back in with us not surviving my father's rein. He but a terrible burden on our family he was 19 and still into heavy drugs, and suicidal tenancies. My mother was having a hard time making ends meet, hell she couldn't see the ends let alone try to make them meet. I talked her into letting me work for my uncle at his plant nursery for the summer. I was thirteen then. Going through puberty and other problems mentally from where my brothers tried to convince me it was my fault our parents got divorced. That was a very hard time for me. I quit going to school at fourteen. And worked full-time for my uncles nursery. I gave every penny I made to my mom. She was now going back to school to get her high school diploma. She also worked at the college full-time. I never really saw her to much anymore. My uncles father was dying from cancer and I started spending time with him when I wasn't working. I grew close to him and took care of him for the next year until he died. He lived a horrible last year of life. He was 6 ft tall and weighed in at 210 lbs. the year before. When he died he weighed 95 lbs. I will never forget what he looked like when he died. I was so relived when he passed away, nobody should be in so much suffering, I was giving him Demerol shots constantly towards the end. Mean time while all this was going on I didn't realize I had started changing my life style to live with my AS. I had been sleeping on the floor with my legs propped up on the couch to be comfortable. And my legs were constantly going to sleep on me. And shooting pains all the way down to my heels.

It was 1982 and I went out on workers comp. At age 16 years old for three months. I was still working for my uncles nursery full-time. And had left home to live with a friend. I started using drugs to kill the pain. I would smoke pot everyday when I got up and take soma-compound at the same time. I was smoking pot like it was going out of style. I took on two more part-time jobs to keep up my habits. And I started drinking Dewars scotch every night. When I turned 18 I moved back home. To help my mom out financially again. And I needed to get straighten out, The DEA had came through town and was arresting drug dealers left and right and it scared the crap out of me. I quit drugs and drinking all at once. And really found out what AS pain was. I still have not seen a doctor about it. I just figured it was one of those things in life that happen. I had seen so many others in pain and suffering I just figured this was life. I had also given up manual work. I got a job as a cashier at a local gas station. Then I got a job as a sales person in a store at the local mall. And that is where my life started again.

I met a nice girl that loved me for me. We dated for a year then got married. While we dated I had a lot of chest pain and rib pain most of my leg pain was subsided except for the numbing. Anyhow I married my wife Lisa, and took a job cleaning buildings at night and with her encouragement I went back to school and got my high school diploma. In 1988 we moved to Baltimore area and worked for a wealthy couple as their personal assistants...boy that job sucked. And the cold weather really put a hurting on me. I got into self-healing through meditation. I thought I was in control, but then I got into a car accident and well I found another new meaning for pain. I went and saw doctors to get treatment for the first time. Boy I went through everything with them. They even put me on a stretching rack three times a week. Finally they took x-rays and found a narrowing in my lower back. And told me I had AS. I was 22 . We left Baltimore and moved back to Florida again. Boy did I know the road trip well by that time. When we got back down here I went to Job Rehab sponsored by the State. They sent me to a Rheumy Dr. and a heart Dr. And back to school for retraining to get me working again.

By this time I had thought about suicide a lot. I thought my life was over. Again my wife stood by me and really helped me. I spent a lot of time skipping school because I could not concentrate due to the drugs I was on. And helped my grandmother she was now dying of cancer. She was a great lady, we had conversations that ,,,well I can't explain, she was also my best friend at the time. She new that I was very close to my grandfather and it gave us a special bond also. She died later that year. I quit school I could not take the drugs and comprehend what I was being taught. I also dropped out of the state program because I couldn't take the NSAID's the Dr. were giving me. I ended up having a mild heart attack at age 24. I got better and said screw life I was going to live and go on. I got a job as an assistant manager for a chemical company. And worked for them for the next 5 years. Developed high blood pressure and eye problems once. Also during that time my wife and I had good insurance and were making an okay living so we decided to have Nicholas Our son. We had his name pick out the year before. We both wanted one child and that was it. He was conceived on March 16, 1990 . and was born on December 22, 1990. HE was my greatest accomplishment ever, and always will be.

In 1995 the company I worked for sold out and the new owners didn't like the high payroll so they let a lot of us go. I took over our sister company. I t was a janitorial company servicing a lot of dealerships. I hired some employees and also worked hands on myself. I did that for 8 months and knew I didn't want to scrub toilets for the rest of my life. So while I owned the janitorial business I went back to school for culinary arts to become a chef. Then I went a step further I got a job as a lunch cook at a local restaurant and still ran my business and went to school. I did this for the next three years. And lived in pain , I ate a lot of Tylenol. I finally sold my business in 1998 and graduated from culinary school also. While I was in school I worked my ass off to get the position of sous chef at a local resort. I hardly ever saw my son or my wife and believe me it took a toll on our marriage. By the end of 1998 I was in so much pain I started seeing Drs again to get help any help. I wasn't sleeping at night, my legs would twitch so much at night my wife would sleep on the couch. I also found the AS web site about then. I meet a lot of great people who gave me a lot of great advice. I felt so much better mentally knowing I could speak with people who knew about an As-ers life. I saw a Dr in January of 1999 that said I did not have AS and gave me the old NSAIDs again. I couldn't take them again. I got sick with a respiratory infection in February . I developed severe pain in my ribs, and had stopped eating he put me on Cipro 500 mg daily for the infection. And gave me Lor-tab to take for the pain. But with not eating my blood sugar had dropped and with the first lortab I collapsed at work and was taken to the ER in an ambulance, Ends up my Dr overdosed me with meds and almost killed me. That was the last time saw him. I found my new rheumy and am still seeing him today, I still have bad rib pains due to chronic muscle spasms in my rib area.!

I am now taking 400mg of Celebrex daily and lortab at night also ultram during the day for pain. And just started taking alsulfisdine daily to help with pain in my ribs. I have a lot of spurs around my feet. And still have only fusing in my lower back. I still work an average of 60 hours a week. And I fly out to Santa Fe next week to accept my job promotion.

Sorry this was so long and boring but it is me. I am sure I forgot a lot and probably got some dates wrong.....

David Ledbetter

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