Sharing, creativity and attitude
help ease challenges
Featuring Debbie Rishel
Swollen, sore hands and bent fingers that wouldn’t straighten had Debbie Rishel at the doctor’s office last August, wondering if her recent carpal tunnel surgery was the cause. Not so, said the doctor. Debbie was soon to get a new diagnosis – rheumatoid arthritis, or RA.
RA made it difficult for Debbie to accomplish the everyday business of life. She couldn’t comb her hair or wear a watch, and even a lightweight Corelle dinner plate was too heavy to lift.
Debbie is now under a doctor’s care and takes medication for her condition, but the health care system doesn’t address many of the quality of life challenges she faces with RA.
“For a while I was kind of depressed,” said Debbie, recalling that even her future retirement plans involved using the hands that were now failing her. “Then I thought, ‘Get over it.’ I don’t want to be depressed. It doesn’t do me any good, and it doesn’t do anybody around me any good.”
In her quest to meet her challenges head‑on, Debbie enrolled in the Chronic Disease Self Management Program offered by WorkLife Programs. The program met once a week for six weeks running.
Each week, participants shared challenges created by their conditions, and then the rest of the group helped come up with ideas for dealing with them. Although no two people in the group were there for the same condition, they were still able to offer good ideas to help each other.
Setting an individual activity plan each week kept everybody moving, and a book given to all participants has been a helpful resource.
Debbie recommends the self management program to anyone living with a chronic condition, and she is grateful to her supervisor for allowing her to take part. Debbie’s participation helped her realize that she was not alone in her trials.
“People can learn a lot by talking with each other,” said Debbie. “You know – pass it on, pass it forward.”
By sharing what works for her, Debbie hopes to help others find solutions to their own challenges. Here are some ways that Debbie makes day‑to‑day life with RA a little easier.
- Puts her hair care products in trigger‑type spray bottles to overcome her inability to use the pump‑type sprayers the products are sold in.
- Wears a pendant watch since anything rubbing on her wrists, even a shirt sleeve, can be painful.
- Keeps moving. Debbie swims laps, walks regularly and splashes around in the creek with her grandkids.
- Chooses slip‑on footwear or athletic shoes with elastic bands instead of shoestrings to overcome shoe‑tying difficulties.
- Sets up her keyboard differently so that she can do her job in Purdue’s Card Services Office.
And finally, Debbie chooses to be happy, believing that attitude can make a difference. “A good chuckle can work as well as anything to make you feel better.”
Debbie Rishel is an ID card specialist in the Card Services Office and recently won a contest in Arthritis Today magazine, where readers were asked to submit their favorite tips for living with arthritis. For more information on WorkLife Programs’ Chronic Disease Self Management Program, visit WorkLife Programs.