Featured Article From Spondylitis Plus - SAA's Quarterly News Magazine
The Faces of Ankylosing Spondylitis: Tyler Hyder
Winter 2013 Issue of Spondylitis Plus
The working life of a hospital nurse can be
extremely busy, stressful, and complex. Making life or
death decisions goes part and parcel with a caring heart
and gentle touch. I thrived on it. Caring for a patient
was my calling. Along came ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and that chapter in my
life closed forever.
I was 32, a mother of two daughters, ages 5 and 3
years. My husband, daughters and I had just moved
from our lives on the farm to a city; I had a new job and
we knew absolutely no one in town. Needless to say,
there was no support system on which we could rely.
My diagnosis came relatively quickly, but hearing the
news shocked me into denial. The issues that led me to
seek medical attention got worse instead of better.
Every morning I awoke with low back pain. Getting
out of bed was excruciating because my heels were so
painful that standing on them made me want to cry. In
fact, there were many mornings when I did just that.
Originally I thought the heel pain was from a stone
bruise, as I was nearly always barefoot at home. I
reasoned that the persistent low back pain was due to
lifting heavy patients or bending over a patient’s bed to
perform wound care or another nursing task. After a
period of about six months with no improvements in
either the back or heel pain I began to think there was
something else wrong. In addition to the pain, I felt
exhausted all the time, but easily dismissed that as an
effect of my hectic work schedule and the challenges
of having recently moved.
I remember the day I went to see the doctor. He was an
internist; one of the physicians with whom I had
become acquainted at the hospital. After asking
numerous questions and completing an exam, he said
he felt he knew what was going on with me, but
wanted to get an x-ray of my sacroiliac joints and
draw some blood for testing. Once the x-ray was
completed, I was directed back into the exam room.
Within moments the doctor arrived, a radiograph in
hand. He said, “Mrs. Hyder, I am quite certain I know
what is happening. I believe you have a condition
known as ankylosing spondylitis.” That moment was
the first time I had ever heard those two words. For the
next few seconds my mind was flooded with questions.
I felt scared and alone, relieved that I had a diagnosis,
yet perplexed as to why this happened to me. I
wouldn’t be able to answer that particular question for
almost 15 years.
Throughout the next few months I was prescribed a
variety of medications. Some didn’t work, others made
me physically ill. Still I continued to work and live the
life of a normal woman with a husband and children.
Although the pain and exhaustion persisted, I began to
deny the fact that I had AS. My husband was having
difficulty finding a job in his field of expertise, and
money was tight. I began to feel isolated and weary.
My girls understood that something was wrong with
Mommy, but because they were so young, they
could not understand. I didn’t want them to feel as
though they had a Mommy that couldn’t measure
up, so I redoubled my efforts to make everything
appear unchanged. I had always been energetic,
with a positive, ebullient nature and to the world,
that didn’t change. But inside, I was beginning to
Seriously, I don’t know what I would have done
without my husband. He was always by my side,
ready to do anything he could to help make my life
easier and more comfortable. It was he who first
introduced the idea that we should consider moving
closer to my family so I could have some help and
support from them as I tried to get this strange and
hurtful disease under control. Feeling as though I
could take no more, we made arrangements to
uproot our lives once again. We packed our
belongings, and our little family journeyed to the
Seattle area to be near my family.
The years since then have been filled with highs
and lows. The disease continued to progress to the
point where I could no longer ignore it and still go
on living. It was then that I finally was able to
accept AS as part of my life. Having done that, I set
out to learn everything I could about the disease. I
wanted to have the ability to control AS and not let
AS control me. I found a rheumatologist, and we
worked on a treatment program, constantly refining
it until we found the best plan for me. I was then
able to go back to work, but my days as a hospital
nurse were over. I could no longer handle being on
my feet for 9 or 10 hours a day. So I had to rethink
my career, and come up with something I was able
In 1995 I became involved with supporting others
with AS. While I no longer felt alone, I knew there
were other people who may be feeling that way. I
became part of a small group of people involved
with forming an online support group for people:
FACES OF ANKYLOSING SPONDYLITIS. Family members were also encouraged to
join our group, and since its inception to the present
day it is one of the largest and longest running
support groups on the Web.
Today, I am no longer able to work full time, but I still
maintain my nursing license…just in case. My
children are grown; I have three grandchildren. Now
I write. And I am still living with AS – a face of
Ankylosing Spondylitis — even after all these years.
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