Speed bump diagnosis: osteoporosis case study
Osteoporosis 69 year old Margaret Hawkyard has suffered 6 vertebral fractures because of osteoporosis, but she is determined to get on with her life, despite her condition. She tells her story to Dom Hall.
Margaret Hawkyard first suspected something was wrong with the bones in her back because of the jarring pain she felt when she drove down a road with speed bumps.
“Every time I drove over those bumps my back hurt,” she says, “but after a few days it went away. It it was only later when my back really began to ache that I felt I should do something about it.”
So Margaret went to see her Doctor and, like so many people affected by osteoporosis, she was told the pain was muscular and sent away with some pain killers. Margaret initially put up with this but, a few weeks later one Christmas Eve, the pain was so unbearable she couldn’t get into bed.
“The back spasms were worse than anything I’ve ever experienced before, but there was nothing I could do until the doctor’s surgery opened again after Christmas. When I phoned, I was just given some stronger pain killers, so I told the doctor I didn’t want that because I knew something was horribly wrong.”
After paying to see a specialist to speed up referral times, Margaret was eventually scanned and told she had at least six fractures in her spine.
It was at this point that Margaret said she faced a big decision. She could either come to terms with her condition and face up bravely to the challenges it threw up, or she could give into it, sit at home and see her life changed forever.
“It takes time to come to terms with a diagnosis of osteoporosis, but you have to be realistic about what you can and can’t do,” she says.
Margaret’s diagnosis was eight years ago and, during that time she says she has managed her osteoporosis well, thanks to a number of things. The first helping hand came in the form of a fantastic physiotherapist.
“She was a Godsend,” says Margaret. “She came to my home and literally taught me how to stand up from a sitting position again without stressing my back, and how to get in and out of bed. She organised a walking frame and a rail by the side of my bed to help. She was firmly encouraging - walk, walk, walk! Progress was very slow but the spasms were lessening.”
Margaret says she also received valuable support from the staff at her local mobility shop. Three months after diagnosis Margaret moved house and so needed a new Doctor. She found the right one by asking the receptionists at her local practice which GP specialised in osteoporosis. This Doctor helped her to progress. She says she has also received a great deal of help from the National Osteoporosis Society Helpline nurses.
Margaret also singles out her husband of 40 years, Chris.
“I can’t praise him enough and together, we are a great team. We job share: I dust, and he vacuums, I feed the washing machine and he unloads it. We get things done together,” she says.
Today Margaret manages her osteoporosis through treatment but also through a positive attitude to day to day life.
“I can’t really exercise very much, but I can walk to my local village and the Church where I used to work. There is plenty to safely occupy me here. It hurts me that I can’t pick up my grandchildren, but I can still spend plenty of time with them. I can run their bath and if someone else lifts them I can bathe them, knelt at the side of the bath. We have such fun! I just have to focus on what I can do, rather on what I can’t. You really do have to count your blessings.”
Margaret recently took part in the National Osteoporosis Society’s Life with Osteoporosis project by agreeing to be interviewed for the report. She says she found the experience quite painful in terms of recounting her story but is positive the resulting report will achieve a great deal in raising awareness.
“I feel like taking the report to every doctor’s surgery in the area and telling the GPs ‘look! This is what it means to have osteoporosis. I think it would really make them sit up and take notice,” she says.
As for those speed bump on her local roads, Margaret says they are still her pet hate!