Rion Landrum was a teenager, just 19 years old, when his hip started giving him trouble. He was a young man serving in the Navy, playing a seemingly harmless game of football with friends. For the next ten years he would be plagued by pain. Many different doctors diagnosed Rion with sciatica and prescribed various exercise regimens he was told would help his condition and alleviate the pain. Rion followed the physicians’ advice, but nothing helped. It was not until a radiologist referred Rion to Michael Strachan, MD, an experienced rheumatologist in Richmond, that he got some answers. Dr. Strachan diagnosed Rion with akylosis spondolitis, a chronic inflammatory disease in the arthritis family affecting the spine, pelvis, and joints.
Unfortunately, diagnosing the disease didn’t make managing it any easier. In fact, at Rion’s worst, he became immobile and was confined to a wheelchair. Just working with his doctor to find proper medications that would allow him to be functional and reduce the pain he was experiencing took its toll physically and mentally. When Rion did find one medication that worked, his insurance carrier no longer covered it. And so began the search for another effective medication. “Thankfully with the help of Dr. Strachan, who found the right combination of medications, I am doing much better these days,” Rion said. “It’s been a while since I have needed a wheelchair.”
Sadly, Rion’s story is not unique. There are 1.5 million Virginians suffering from arthritis. Over 25,000 children in the Mid-Atlantic live with the disease.
The Arthritis Foundation is the leading health organization addressing the needs of 50 million Americans living with arthritis, the nation’s most common cause of disability. Additionally, the Arthritis Foundation is the top nongovernment funder of arthritis research in the world. Locally, money raised from last year’s events funded 122 programs to help Virginians living with arthritis and arthritis-related disease. These included exercise, aquatics programs, and tai chi, known as stress-reducing meditation in motion.
For Rion, living with akylosis spondolitis has its challenges. Everyday tasks like brushing teeth and tying shoes can’t be taken for granted. But for this Hanover resident, the most heartbreaking challenge of all was helping his two sons adjust to living with juvenile arthritis when they were diagnosed three years ago.
“I want people to know arthritis affects all ages, even children and young adults,” Rion said. “We need people to support the Arthritis Foundation so that research and advocacy can continue. Hopefully new and better treatments will be discovered and maybe even a cure.”