THURROCK residents living with rheumatoid arthritis had the opportunity to pick the brains of the expert staff who care for them at Basildon University Hospital.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful condition caused by the immune system attacking the tissue that surrounds the joints in the body. If the condition is not treated quickly, it can lead to joint damage.
To emphasise the friendly and informal theme, the event was called ‘Rheum Mates’, and gave patients time to meet each other, hear talks on treatments for their condition and ask senior doctors and nurses questions.
Dr Shilpa Selvan, consultant rheumatologist and Pat Eveson, rheumatology nurse specialist, organised the event. Pat said: “We always try to give all our patients enough time when they come for appointments to raise any concerns or ask questions. But we’ve all had the experience of going to the doctor and then remembering afterwards something we wanted to ask.
“This event was designed to give our patients a relaxed setting where they could share experiences and chat informally to clinical staff, as well as being reminded of the services we provide.”
There are two main groups of long term medication for rheumatoid arthritis – disease modifying anti rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologic treatments. These are a newer treatment which may be given to patients in addition to DMARDs, if the patient meets certain clinical criteria.
Janet Benton, aged 71, came along to the Rheum Mates event with her husband Graham. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in her early 40s and her mobility became so impaired that she had to use a wheelchair. Ten years ago she began taking biologic medication which has made a huge improvement to her quality of life. She does experience some discomfort and pain sometimes, but is able to walk and has a very positive attitude on life.
She said: “I love cooking but I know that if I roll pastry the next day I will be hurting. You just have to get on with life though and I am so much better than before – I never need to use a wheelchair now.”
Janet’s medication is given by tablet and injection, which she manages with the help of her husband. She attends Basildon Hospital every three months for blood tests and examination.
She added: “The care here is absolutely perfect. I don’t know what I would have done without them. And this event has been really useful – I thought I knew a lot but I have learned things and I would definitely come again.”