How COVID-19 Changed My nr-AxSpA Management

Navigating a new diagnosis was providing enough challenges without the emergence of a pandemic.

I will preface this by saying I am fortunate that I have not contracted COVID-19, nor has anyone I know, and I’m fortunate to live in a region that has seen relatively few cases. From that standpoint I consider myself lucky.

From a disease management standpoint, this has sucked the proverbial big one.

By the time the coronavirus shutdowns hit my region, I was just over two months into an official diagnosis, and I was making very good progress for both my mental and physical health.

Then everything shut down

The most frustrating thing has been the loss of outpatient services.

I was scheduled to visit a physiotherapist at a local arthritis center and received cancellation notice about 24 hours before my appointment. They sent me an exercise booklet and offered a virtual chat in the meantime, but without an in-person assessment, I will simply have to continue to wait for this help.

I also began feeling worse and due to all the closures, I wasn’t sure what assistance I could get from doctors. I reached out to my rheumatologist for help and was introduced to Telehealth.

Virtual appointments aren't so bad

I had to download an app, we use one called Medeo, and in recent months I’ve had my appointments via video chat. Once we had to do it over the phone because the video chat wouldn’t load, but for the most part, I’ve had a positive experience with the video help model.

It is simpler for me to do it this way and less intrusive to my daily schedule. The hour-long commute to and from the appointment is no longer necessary, so I’m quite content to do it from my couch.

My next appointment in September is scheduled to be via video even though much of our community has reopened. I don’t have a problem if this becomes the medical appointment standard moving forward.

In person, it's a different story

On multiple occasions, I’ve had to go in-person to a healthcare clinic. It is very odd.

Regardless of the facility, I was greeted by a pair of eyes hiding behind layers of personal protective equipment offering me the required hand sanitizer and mask. Every seating area I visited was awkwardly spaced around the room to account for social distancing. For the record, none of the nurses I spoke with enjoyed the new procedures. The people working there disliked the set-up as much as I did as a patient.

For all the oddities to my healthcare supports, the closures of public facilities have had the greatest daily impact to me.

My routine has also been affected

My pre-COVID daily routine included some version of group fitness classes, the sauna, the pool, the hot tub, the exercise room, all things I used to help my body feel better. These will be the last to return as we navigate the reopening phases of society.

For now, I will be grateful for my own safety and long for days of normalcy to return.

Stay safe out there.

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