Helping others cope with arthritis

Volunteers/Where good neighbors get together

March 24, 1992|By Ellen Hawks | Ellen Hawks,Staff Writer

There are days, says Anne Brooks of Phoenix, when the pain in her feet is almost unbearable, and the rest of her body is not much better. ''A hot bath helps," she says.

''Until I had this I couldn't understand when I heard people talk about aching,'' says Mrs. Brooks, 49, who has had rheumatoid arthritis since she was in her late 30s.

Mrs. Brooks is a volunteer to the Maryland Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, and her empathy and personal experiences makes her an excellent leader for the foundation's self-help courses. She will teach a new course beginning May 5 at the Parkville Senior Center.

''The point of these courses,'' she says, ''is to highlight techniques for coping, the exercises that will help and other ways to manage, plus how to accept arthritis.''

Everyone accepts the disease differently, she says. ''I have a very good friend who is significantly crippled with arthritis, yet if you ask her how she feels, she'll always answer 'fantastic.' Another personality might answer with a whole catalog of their pains. Our aim is to give support and understanding to both personalities,'' she says.

People with arthritis must work to overcome their disadvantage, Mrs. Brooks believes.

''I have had a success with my sewing, which I love. I found I couldn't cut out materials, but I searched around and discovered that a quilting wheel, which I could use, would cut for me. I'm back to sewing,'' she says cheerfully.

The Maryland Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, at 3 Lan Lea Drive in Lutherville, was a founding chapter of the national foundation in 1948.

There are five branches of the Maryland chapter: Cumberland, (301) 759-9411; Frederick, (301) 663-0303; Hagerstown, (301) 791-2235; Salisbury, (410) 749-8509 and Severna Park, (410) 544-5433.

The branches provide self-help courses, support groups, literature and coping tips. There is also a physicians' referral list, and regular forums feature health professionals and exercise and recreation programs.

According to Lauren Grap, volunteer coordinator for the foundation, some 600,000 Marylanders have arthritis, a disease more prevalent in women than men.

Nationally, it is estimated there are 37 million arthritis sufferers -- 200,000 are children and 6 million are self-diagnosed and have not seen a physician.

''There is a propensity to it in families. My mother's arthritis began in her 40s and my father's in his 30s,'' says Mrs. Brooks, whose first symptoms began in 1980 when she had bursitis in her shoulder, which gradually spread to her other joints.

She works part-time as a family practice physician's assistant in the Peoples Community Health Center on Greenmount Avenue. She takes histories and does routine examinations and diagnoses, which do not require too much walking, she says.

She also volunteers to Stella Maris Hospice. ''I've been going there five or six years, but I have stopped walking to work with patients. I now answer the telephone, stuff envelopes or whatever they need,'' she says.

Her husband Larry is an engineer in the Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins University. ''We once took long hikes," she says, "but now we do a lot of camping and not as much walking.''

Norine Walker is the chairman of the board of the Maryland Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation. The foundation is funded from several sources, among them donations, membership, program dues, United Way and investments.

Volunteers are needed at all branches for office help, fund-raising and patient service committees, the speakers bureau and conducting day and evening programs.

To volunteer or for details about self-help courses, support groups and other information, call Lauren Grap, 561-8090.

The next self-help course will begin April 6 at Union Memorial Hospital. A $15 fee is charged to cover the cost of materials. All courses are two hours once a week for six weeks.

Also, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 12 on Channel 45, a fund-raising telethon will be held.

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