What an amazing group of people I’ve met with weekly since April. We were all participants in a course Arthritis Self-Management Programme: Living Well with Arthritis and Related Conditions.
Although I suffered with osteoarthritis for a number of years, I managed work and social life well. However in 2013 I was hospitalised for a number of months with Sepsis. Following long weeks in a coma (of which I was blissfully unaware except for some crazy dreams) and many months of hospitalisation my general health deteriorated.
Because the focus of attention was on repairing the lung damage caused by the septicaemia, rather than its effect on the whole body, the inactivity of being bed-ridden and a cocktail of drugs resulted in an increase in the severity of the symptoms of my arthritis especially in the areas of pain and immobility. This is certainly not a judgement on the health professionals involved because they were excellent.
Living with more severe pain and greater immobility prompted me to contact Arthritis Ireland and in one of their emails I read about this course. I put my name down but realistically had few expectations.
The course was amazing. Facilitated ably by 2 super leaders, our group of fourteen met every Wednesday for six weeks in the Keadeen Hotel, Newbridge, Co Kildare. We explored the interruption of the “vicious cycle of pain symptoms” through the development of a toolbox of skills, skills that would allow us to take control of our illness.
These skills included examining the power of the mind, decision making, problem solving, communication, diet, the importance of sleep, exercise, the correct use of medication and how to work successfully with health professionals. We learned how to develop and evaluate action plans to practice these skills and in this way “outsmart our arthritis”.
During coffee breaks, the facilitators shared their knowledge of locally organised events (aquarobics, walking groups, seated exercise groups, etc) as well as offering advice on where we might access other relevant information e.g. about walking shoes, walking poles, etc. They had a wide range of information leaflets to answer many of our questions. Gaining knowledge is always wonderful and the course content was excellent; but the course did more than that. Friendships developed among the participants and confidence in ourselves and in each other grew due.
This rapport was due in no small part to the lovely open atmosphere created by the two facilitators. The wide age range of participants meant that stories encompassed overcoming challenges when you’re 20 years old and when you’re MORE THAN 20: all inspirational.
The collegiality of the last evening when we all described how the course had changed our lives, the presentation of certificates and the exchange of phone and email details so that we could maintain contact and network post-course exemplified how much we had all gained.
The course book, “Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions” which all course attendants brought away with them will continue to serve as a valuable reference Personally it was the facility to learn about and practice the skills to self-manage my arthritis and the resulting confidence and empowerment I felt that most benefitted me.
I congratulate Arthritis Ireland on the development and delivery of this course and I will certainly recommend it to others knowing its great benefits. Well done and apecial thanks to our leaders for their wonderful input.