“I was a musician playing the viola. I started as a schoolgirl and when I was about 14, I decided that that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to play in an orchestra. It was a lot of practice and hard work but eventually, I got a job playing on BBC orchestra in Belfast. That was my first job in the 1970s. At the time, there were several bombs going off every day and because of that, we were given a small bonus, tax-free, every year and a week’s holiday. It was called the ‘Danger Week’. So with that week off, I went home to my parents in England. I was 27 at the time. It was a beautiful September day and we were going to see one of my aunts who was sick. We packed the car with all kinds of flowers from the garden and my mother made a beautiful blackberry & apple pie and off we went. It was a long straight road and a car was coming right up against us. I remember the time slowing down and thinking, well this is it. The two cars slammed into each other. The whole thing was so fast that the people in the car behind us thought that it was a car bomb. For us, it felt like ages, but we knew that it was going to happen. My parents were okay, but the seatbelts did some damage to them. Back then, there weren’t any seatbelts in the back of the car. I was sitting in the middle, holding the blackberry & apple pie, which ended up on the windscreen. When the ambulance and fire brigade arrived and first saw the mess on the windscreen, they were preparing for the worst. I had completely broken my arm and my wrist and had some other minor injuries. Because I was a musician, the surgeon didn’t want to do an operation. They were afraid that if they messed up, it would be the end of my career. So they simply tied my arm to my body for over five months and let nature do its thing. It began to mend but it didn’t make it so eventually, eventually, they had to put a plate in my arm. After the accident, my body was never the same again.”
“I had to have a year off work and then I had to re-adjust and re-learn how to play now my arm had mended. Back then, nobody talked about whiplash. I’ve now got very bad arthritis in my neck and I think it dates back to the accident. Playing the viola for over 25 years and holding my neck in an unnatural position probably didn’t help either. Eventually, one morning in my 50s, I woke up with a huge migraine, feeling very sick and with my neck seized up. After that, my career started to go downhill, as I was only able to play for a week before my neck would seize up again. It went on for a while until my doctor suggested I stop playing altogether. Luckily, I had insurance so I was able to retire. Later, I got arthritis in my hips as well and eventually I had to get a hip replacement. Back then, I had no idea where to turn for support. Probably the hardest part about the early retirement was having to leave my beloved viola behind. You see, I never got married and, despite being fiercely independent, I was afraid of not having enough to do! But then, I met a lady who is doing personalised yoga. I am with her for over 20 years now. She was able to give me some of my mobility back. I used to run a ladies’ group in the church where I had to organise speakers for our events on different topics. One day, I was able to speak to a lady who was talking about arthritis. This is how I got introduced to Arthritis Ireland and in no time, I was on their committee. We had all sorts of group meetings. It was a great experience! We did things I never thought we would do. We put on fashion shows and raised enough money to help two professors do research on rheumatology. We set up many support groups too. I’ve never been busier. I am part of many social and support groups. I do bird watching, painting and gardening. I wasn’t able to do any of this before. Being informed, exercising and getting the right treatment made all the difference.”
This post was highlighted by @ArthritisIreland National Arthritis Week is taking place this week highlighting the importance of physical activity for people living with arthritis. COMMENTS:
Anyone wishing to support Arthritis Ireland can do so by making a donation on its website.