Health Hero: Leola M. Hays

Leola, 78, lives in Montgomery, AL. She has suffered from arthritis for decades, but didn't give up on finding ways to cope with and manage this painful condition. Read on to see how she continues to overcome against the pain in her joints.

My Life with Osteoarthritis

My last job was in September 2004.  I stopped working because the company merged with another company and all of the employees were laid off.  Since then, it's been difficult to find another job. I have been divorced since 1973. My daughters are in their 50s and both are married.  For about 20 years, I actively dated, went out dancing, and just had fun to keep me feeling good and young.

My joints started bothering me at 45.  It seemed to happen gradually and I pretty much expected it because my mother had pretty bad joint pain as well.  I was always quite active, so it didn't slow me down too much.  I didn't go to the doctor about it until I was in my 60s. For a long time, I managed the pain on my own by taking aspirin, but I had to stop because I developed ulcers. I also took NSAIDS for a while, but I developed heart problems from it, so I had to quit taking those, too.  So now, I really don't take anything for it. I just hurt all the time.

I had an arthroscopy of one knee last year and the doctor said I had no cartilage in my knees because it was eaten up by arthritis.  So, I have to undergo a knee replacement.  My knees have bothered me more and more over the last 8 years, and it's very difficult for me to get up.  Even getting off the toilet can be a problem. One of my daughters bought risers to put on my toilets, and a handle in the tub. In the last 3-4 years, I have fallen and mostly landed on my knees about 5 times. They have definitely taken a beating. 

I broke a bone in one ankle about 3 years ago and recently sprained that same ankle in another fall, so I'm presently wearing an aircast.  Before that, in 2005, I fell on my right side and broke my pelvis. Plus, I broke my tailbone from falling out of my bathtub in 1994. I have knots on several fingers and my hands are in constant pain. My hips have hurt for as long as I can remember, so I tend to put pillows behind me.  But through all of the pain, I haven't gotten many crippling effects from it.

My arthritis doctor gave me a muscle relaxant to help me sleep and that's been a lifesaver.  Last winter, I started going to the gym.  This helped keep my bones and muscles in better shape and, all in all, I feel pretty good.  I still work in my yard even though it gets very hard for me.

I'm not a person who gets emotional about illnesses.  I pretty much expected to have arthritis and it didn't bother me at all. I would tell anyone who suffers from arthritis to try to do whatever they can.  Giving up is not going to help-you need to stay active. Take advice from your doctor and do what you can to relieve the pain.  I've always been a strong person about dealing with pain, and I realized that even more when I was troubled with arthritis.


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