x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 October 2017

Housewife with rheumatoid arthritis 'could barely move'

Dubai woman saw several doctors before receiving help for her rheumatoid arthritis.

By her own description, Shainaaz Harbhajun was a fit and healthy person. She exercised and was not often ill.

But all that suddenly changed. She began to experience twinges of pain in her shoulder and was stunned at the speed at which she was robbed of her mobility.

Her condition deteriorated to the extent that she could not hold anything, open a car door or raise food to her mouth. Doctors diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis.

Mrs Harbhajun, 48, a South African housewife who lives in Dubai, said the apparent hopelessness of her situation hit her during an emotional visit to see her doctor.

"In December 2008 he told me to book an early appointment because he was going on holiday," she said.

"I tried to tell him how bad I felt, how much pain I was in, and all he said was, 'Shainaaz, you will be like this for the rest of your life.' That is when I broke down and cried. I felt my life was over."

After unfruitful visits to an orthopaedic surgeon, a chiropractor and a gynaecologist, Mrs Harbhajun was referred to a rheumatologist at a well-known Dubai hospital. It was the first time, she said, that she had heard of such a doctor.

He prescribed a weekly dosage of methotrexate tablets and cortisone injections.

The shots helped to relieve her symptoms but the treatment "wasn't even playing catch-up to my disease".

Shortly afterwards, she had her last appointment with the doctor, whose prognosis devastated her.

"At this point, I lost all hope," said Mrs Harbhajun. "I did not care where I went for a check-up, what medication I was taking or which doctor I was seeing."

Fortunately, she found a new doctor and, with him, renewed hope.

"I gave a huge sigh of relief because somebody was listening to me," she said. After removing excess fluid from one of her knees and prescribing methotrexate injections, the new doctor has put Mrs Harbhajun on a treatment regime that has allowed her to live a relatively normal life.

"I was one of the lucky ones. For me it was the worst time in my life," she said.

She is now able to swim for the first time in three years and has completed a 3-kilometre fun walk.

"Thanks to a very kind and patient doctor I have my life back," she said. "At the moment we are managing the arthritis.

"I have a very positive outlook in life."

zalhassani@thenational.ae