WHO CARES: Chronic Illness in America
WHO CARES: Chronic Illness in America

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Patricia Lawson
Council Bluffs, IA

I have a number of health problems but since they all hit at the same time I do not know if they are related or something that just happened. I am a certified surgical technologist who worked in the operating room for 18 years. I wore latex gloves every working day and in 1995 I was diagnosed with Natural Rubber Latex Allergy (NRLA). I am allergic not only to natural latex gloves but also balloons, rubber bands, some elastics, some erasers -- basically anything made with natural latex. This is the latex that comes from the rubber tree, not the synthetic man made latex. There is a big difference and it has taken me many years to find out what makes me ill. My face will turn beet red, I will have asthma like breathing problems, heart palpitations and I have had anaphylactic reactions in many places.

It is very scary to wake up and find paramedics surrounding you and you have no idea what happened or why. After my latex diagnosis, I was also diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica. Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is a disorder that causes stiffness and aching that begins in the neck, shoulder, and hip areas. It is not known whether it is a disease of the joints, muscles, or arteries. However, it is thought that inflammation in these areas leads to pain and stiffness.

PMR rarely affects people under 50 but I was only 42 when diagnosed. It has affected my kidney for which I had to have three surgeries in one month. For more information log onto: http://www.orthop.washington.edu/ arthritis/types/polymyalgia/01. One year later I was diagnosed with RSDS-Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome is a progressive disease of the Autonomic Nervous System that can follow a simple trauma (fall or sprain) a break or fracture (especially wrist and ankle) a sharp force injury (such as a knife or bullet wound), heart problems, infections, surgery, RSI/CTS, spinal injuries/disorders, or major trauma. Log on to: http://www.rsdhope.org/ShowPage.asp?PAGE_ID=3 to find out more.

Having these three illnesses can make life interesting. I have been thru pain management courses, been on some pretty powerful drugs, but thru it all have maintained my dignity and self respect. I will be on steroids for the rest of my life but that is small price to pay for the ability to lead as "normal" a life as I can. Thank you. There is so little known about these three illnesses. I do not ask for pity, I ask for understanding and a desire on everyone's part to learn all they can about these and other chronic illnesses.

Zoe Albright, Stroke
Betty Bennett, Kidney Disease
Roxanne Bedford-Curbow, Seizures
Valerie Brekke, Fibromyalgia
Lily Casura, Chronic Fatigue
Billie Davis, Peripheral Neuropathy
Penny Day, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Julia DeJesus, Seizure Disorder
MS Patient, Fairfax, VA
Charisse Farmer, Hydrocephalus
Katherine Fielder, Chronic Pain
Zoe Francis, Juvenile Diabetes
James Hines, Hemochromatosis
William Holford, Emphysema
Nancy K, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Patricia Lawson, Natural Rubber Latex Allergy
James Locke, Crohn's Disease
Gary Maslow, various
Kathy Matthews, Parkinson's
Andrea Meyer, MS
Gina Owens, Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome
Alicia Salas, Chronic Pain
Allison Scott, Chronic Pain
Deborah Serrano, Stroke
Becky Shively, Phenylketonuria
Jennifer Smallin, Type I Diabetes
Joanna Southerland, Diabetes
Alina Valdes, Cystic Fibrosis
Elizabeth Wertz, Seizures

Jose Pedro Greer, Physician
W.F. Nagle, Physician
Ronda Riebman, Exercise
Cathleen Schilling, Case Manager
Jim Sykes

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