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Walking like a robot: life with RA

Before he developed rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Danny Hargrove led an extremely active life. As a certified paramedic/EMT and a supervisor for his area, he sometimes worked 48-hour shifts and often logged 100 hours per week at his job. He also carried a pager 24/7 and acted as a backup when others were sick or unavailable to work. As well, he played a lot of sports and enjoyed four-wheeling and skidooing.

But that all changed in the summer of 2004. What started as a sore knee turned into a disease that affected his whole body. Danny’s RA caused so much pain, swelling, and stiffness that he couldn’t sleep, move around comfortably, or work. His steps became more stiff and awkward so that he was "walking like a robot." It took him 10 minutes to walk the same distance that he used to do in one minute. According to Danny, "A turtle could have walked faster."

He had to give up his job as a paramedic, which he had enjoyed for many years, and go on disability. He was unable to make a fist, to cut his own steak, or to open a 2-litre bottle of pop. He had to roll in and out of the tub in order to take a bath, and he could barely get up the stairs on his own.

RA also affected his family life. Danny found it hard not to be able to hold and play with his young granddaughter. Because she was so young, she couldn’t understand why Danny no longer seemed to want to pick her up and hold her, and she would often cry. Danny also needed to rely on his wife’s help to cut his food and get out of his chair. For an independent person like Danny, these lifestyle changes were tough to deal with.

But despite the toll that RA took on his life, Danny refused to give up. He vowed he would return to work, and that he would find a way to beat the disease and keep moving forward. He also did his best to stay active and get back to work.

Danny’s story has a happy ending. Eventually, with the support of his medical team, Danny found a treatment that worked (see "Finding the right treatment" to read more), and he has been able to return to work and the activities that he enjoys.

If RA is affecting your life, speak to your doctor to find out more about how you can manage your RA.

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