One Patient's Positive Perspectives

Waldorf Astoria Arizona Biltmore, AZ - Frank Lloyd Wright Ballroom Classroom Seating

State bar conference volunteer

Along with a team of other volunteers, last week included three days helping the Arizona State Bar at our state’s annual convention for mandatory lawyer continuing education.  This was an interesting change from the normal management routines of my government law office.  About half of the time we were helping attorneys check in for their classes, and rest was divided between coordinating session details for the faculty and ironing out snags and miscellaneous attendee needs.

Change of Pace

Change of pace

It was refreshing to serve other members of the legal community while having a break from my own normal work routines.  I enjoyed the opportunity for a new adventure.

For a “people person,” there is nothing like interacting with others and having the opportunity to help make their experience pleasant and stress free.  Although briefly meeting and interacting with hundreds of new people was emotionally fatiguing, it was also rewarding and challenging.  Each new attendee presented with their own agenda and sometimes unique set of questions and concerns.  Helping everyone was a very satisfying experience.

Legally Taking a Different Pace

handicapped man in wheelchair

A different pace

I could not help but notice the handful of attorneys who were attending with visible disabilities, some in wheelchairs and others with canes and other noticeable mobility challenges.  My heart was captured by the special dilemmas unique to their seminar experience.  Often, even in this age of diversity and ADA awareness, details, like the convenience of handicapped parking and walkway distances and slope, seem to receive inadequate attention.

Convention centers and hotels can be larger than most people realize!  When planning my travel, I am usually unsuccessful finding online hotel maps with handicapped parking locations shown in relationship to entrances and meeting rooms.  Usually, I end up studying the seminar conference diagrams to find my classes, and then find the closest handicapped parking spots using Google’s satellite maps.

Taking Too Many Paces

As an attendee at many professional education conferences, I find it difficult to walk back and forth between events.   Lupus arthritis, and lupus inflammation in tendons and other joint soft-tissues can make even mild extended exertion a nearly insurmountable problem.  Often, the vendor shows are massive at national conferences, so I even study the maps of vendor booths to make strategic decisions the ones worth finding.

Remembering Boston and It’s Shuffling Pace

Photo by Lupus Adventurer © 2013

Not one more step!

One morning several years ago at conference in Boston, I stopped within a couple of steps of shredding the swollen Achilles tendon in my left heel.

On the second day of the conference, while hobbling on increasingly stiff, sore feet and ankles, I had reached the midway point between my hotel and my first morning session. Putting weight down on my foot to take the next step, I felt the sensation of swollen tendon fibers in my heel starting to rip loose from each other.  I backed the weight off my painful foot and stopped right there, in the middle of the convention center breezeway.  I didn’t dare flex my foot one more time.

I knew could not take another step without ripping my left Achilles tendon.  Just a year before, I had ripped the Plantaris tendon in my right calf during the mild exertion of a laser tag team-building event. There was simply no mistaking what I felt.  So, slowly scooting over to a nearby planter filled with Philodendron, I sat down and evaluated the extent of my brewing tendon injury.

I watched as other convention-goers passed me on their way to class, greeting some that I knew as they went by.


On the way to class

After resting a while, the intense pain eased just enough to put a little weight on my foot, and I got up and slowly shuffled the rest of the way toward the conference meeting room, never lifting my heel off the floor to prevent pulling the tendon.  Stopping off at the first aid station for an ice pack, I slipped into the back row of class late — picking a spot with two empty chairs.  After elevating and icing my heel through the morning class, I was eventually able to walk very slowly and carefully to the remaining sessions that day.

The ice bag was to become my constant companion through the rest of the conference.

That night, I sat on the bed in my hotel room,  icing and elevating my heel and eating take-out P.F. Chang’s lettuce wraps for dinner.  Increasing my steroid dose to emergency flare levels, I had narrowly averted a crippling tendon injury.  The next morning I awoke adequately recovered to gingerly resume slow, careful, deliberate walking throughout the rest of the conference, icing periodically as needed.  I allowed twice as much time to get between sessions as otherwise would have been needed.

Heeding the Threat of Completely Loosing Pace almost five years have passed since the Boston conference, I have never forgotten the sensation of swollen tendons on the verge of shredding.  A woman with Lupus that I know in Maine shredded both Achilles tendons by walking on them when they were inflamed.  She has been wheelchair-bound ever since.

This past week, I arrived at the local conference for the volunteer orientation session, hoping to find a close parking spot.  I was I was grateful for the valet who directed me to the handicapped parking closest to the conference center.  I noticed the longer distance many attendees had to “hoof it” from the distant parking lots cars to get to their classes, and was very thankful.


Comments on: "Lupus, learning and keeping pace from a legal perspective" (8)

  1. Wow, I never realized that lupus symptoms could cause such a horrible thing as shredded Achilles tendons. I guess that when it comes to this autoimmune disease, there is still much more for me to learn. Do you have anymore resources you could point me to so I could learn more about it?

    • A quick reference from the Lupus Foundation of America’s Web Site:

      “Tendonitis and Bursitis

      A tendon is a strong ropelike structure made of tough fibers that attaches muscle to bone. A bursa is a small sac containing a slippery fluid that is usually found near a joint and allows muscles, bones, and tendons to move easily. Tendonitis (irritation of a tendon) and bursitis (irritation of a bursa) are usually due to damage or overuse of a joint. Pain is the major symptom of both conditions. Different areas of your body may be affected; common areas include the elbow (tennis elbow), the finger (trigger finger), and the shoulder. In addition, tendons and bursas are both lined with synovial membrane, which is a target for inflammation in lupus arthritis.”

  2. Very important topic! Especially during this month of July when ADA was signed into action in 1990. Thank you for reminding others about how painful it can be to just walk! But we have to keep taking those steps one by one.

    • LL: One of the first ADA cases our government law office dealt with in 1990 was another Lupus patient. I didn’t know then that I had lupus, it was right before I was diagnosed.

      It is hard to believe that the ADA, as a recently amended, (now the ADAAA) has matured into its twenties. It has been in effect almost long enough now to protect some of us throughout most of our careers, all the way to retirement.

      Many young people just entering the U.S. workforce today do not know a workplace without ADA protections.

      Thanks for chiming in and visiting my blog! LA

  3. Very informative post. So glad you were not permanently injured.

    • DYD: Thanks. My thoughts, precisely. My hope is that sharing this story might help other patients prevent injury, so that none end up like my friend in Maine. LA

  4. That my biggest challenge so far with my Lupus, the walking. I can’t do it for very long and I get in intense pain in my feet and ankles. If it wasn’t for that I feel like I could do so much more. But know that I can’t and so I limit things. Hard to do an amusement park with children and grandchildren, which is so sad to me. I’m so glad that you got handicapped parking at this conference!!

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