Finding Nema


In nature theres no blemish but the mind.

None can be called deformed but the unkind.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English dramatist

Twelfth Night. Act 3. Sc 4,1.

Ill call her Nema, a deformed little girl I saw while channel-surfing in the wide expanse of cable. Poor girl. She had rheumatoid arthritis and could hardly walk or write. She was being milked to the last emotional sound bite by an insensitive features reporter Bakit ka malungkot? (Why are you sad?). Nema answered, Kasi po hindi na ako makapaglaro katulad ng ibang mga bata. (Because I can no longer play like the other kids.) Next the camera focused on her small, gnarled fingers. Someone probably told her to write, or to try and write. She couldnt even squeeze the pencil right. Then the reporter asked her something inaudible, but I am sure, something mean. For in the final moment they showed her tearful face. I banged on the remote because I was tearful too, tearfully enraged. TV tore that girl apart and for what? She probably cant even begin to understand whats eating her body whole. But they feasted on her crooked body anyway, stoking her self-pity, teaching her in one day the meaning of tearful rage.

What is RA? Unlike osteoarthritis which is a condition of wear and tear, rheumatoid arthritis or RA is a chronic inflammation of the joints with no known cause other than auto-immune. This means that ones body is unable to recognize itself and the immune system destroys the synovium or lining of the joints. Eventually, the joints - usually the small joints of the hand and feet and the larger joints like the hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows and wrists are affected too.

At risk are those between 20 and 50, though a variant called JRA or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (what Nema has) occurs in children. Women are three times more likely to get RA than men. There is no cure. The treatment strategy is to live with the disease and not die of it. Protocols have been developed that control flare-ups of the condition. Coping skills are taught to RA patients and their home companions.

Signs and Symptoms. A person stricken with RA usually experiences severe fatigue and low grade fever, weakness of the extremities; pain, swelling and loss of motion of the joints, particularly of the hands.

Criteria for classic rheumatoid arthritis are

* Morning stiffness of the joints for one hour for at least 6 weeks

* Swelling of three or more joints for at least 6 weeks

* Symmetric joint swelling (both hands, both knees, and so on)

* Swelling of the wrist and the knuckles for at least six weeks

* Rheumatoid nodules (small, painless lumps that develop just under the skin

Confronting RA. …

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