HJ/EDEnterprise Dispatch, Feb. 13, 2006

Arthritis: why not have comfort?

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Ann Bollman of Dassel has been coping with rheumatoid arthritis for the past 32 years, and yet she is a ‘walking, moving, doing’ success story.

“Right now I’m in very good control of my pain,” Bollman said, after a morning of baking rye bread for her 50th wedding anniversary. Bollman and her husband, Jerry, are preparing for the celebration, which will be Saturday, March 4.

Even after kneading 25 loaves, Bollman pointed out how her hands didn’t swell up.

“The biggest mistake that people make is that they sit around,” said Bollman, originally from Litchfield.

Bollman walks a mile every day, stays active volunteering, cooking and baking, she said.

When Bollman was still working at Dassel Lakeside Community Home as activity director, sometimes she felt depressed about the progress of her arthritis, and wanted to quit her job. Her rheumatologist, Dr. David Hanson of St. Cloud, urged her to do no such thing. “Keep your job, keep busy,” he said.

Seeing a rheumatologist is the second most important factor in controlling arthritis, Bollman said.

Not only are rheumatologists informed about the latest pain control techniques, but can tailor a regimen to fit the patient’s condition. Not all the regimens will work on every person in the same way, she said.

Bollman experimented in the beginning also. She didn’t expect to have arthritis, although she remembers an aunt who had it. “My dad was a very limber fellow,” Bollman said.

Her mother didn’t have any joint pain either until she was in her 80s and then it was limited to her knees, what is called stress arthritis, Bollman said.

Bollman did some ordinary tasks, such as cleaning the living room, and the next day her back and hands ached. “I just hurt all over,” she said.

Bollman was puzzled why something so ordinary caused so much pain.

Bollman first went to her local doctor in Dassel for a physical, and then to a specialist in St. Cloud, where she was hospitalized for three days for tests.

“You’re in good health, but you have arthritis,” the rheumatologist told her.

First, she was put on a regimen of 25 aspirins a day and to “work and rest, work and rest.”

It takes at least six weeks to find out if a regimen works, so arthritis sufferers need to be patient people, Bollman said.

The aspirin worked for a while, but then as the arthritis progressed it lost its effectiveness. “My joints got very inflamed,” she said.

Next, she tried gold shots. That worked for a while too, but then she had to do more. The arthritis had developed throughout her entire body, even in the irises of her eyes.

For awhile, she was taking Humera. Her health insurance stopped paying for it, and it cost more than $1,000 a month. “We couldn’t afford that,” Bollman said.

Then her rheumatologist came up with a creative option that the health insurance provider covered. Bollman is getting Remicade intravenously every 30 days. She is on her 25th infusion of Remicade, she said.

Bollman also has one shot a week of Methotrexate. “I do my own injections,” she said.

She also takes Naproxen and Prednisone.

“I have two braces on my ankles,” Bollman added.

The regimen is working.

“My joints aren’t swollen and I don’t ache,” Bollman said.

Bollman told how the last two years of work, she used to drive herself around on an electric cart. Now, the only times she needs to cart is when she has to do a lot of walking, such as at the fair, she said.

“Right now I have no side effects going on,” she said.

Bollman regularly has her liver tested to see if the strong drugs are negatively affecting her. Her chest also is x-rayed for signs of tuberculosis. Remicade lowers the immune system’s effectiveness. Nine weeks before she started the infusions, she was treated with medicine to prevent TB, Bollman said.

Even now, each time she goes for the infusion, she is quizzed about any infections she might have, she said.

The only symptom that bothers her now is that her shoulders hurt if she vacuums an entire room at once. To alleviate that she vacuums only a little at a time, Bollman said.

“I get a lot of help and support from my husband. He can read me like a book if I’m not feeling good,” she said.

Her husband, who was a Standard Oil agent, and then later a Dassel co-op petroleum agent, built a special shoulder-high cabinet for her in the middle of the kitchen because he knows how she loves to cook and bake.

“My husband has made the house as easy as possible,” Bollman said.

He moved the laundry room from the basement to the main floor, for example. He also installed a chair-elevator on the stairs and faucets that lift up and down instead of turn, she said.

In addition, Bollman has an electric chair that raises and lowers when she needs to sit down or get up. The Bollmans also bought a van. “That’s much easier for me to get in and out of,” she said.

Bollman has heard people question why bother seeing a rheumatologist when there’s no cure for arthritis. Bollman doesn’t see the logic in that attitude. People who have pain from cancer seek relief, why not from arthritis? “Why not have comfort?” she asks.

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