Get­ting burnt by the in­vis­i­ble fire

Half a mil­lion Ki­wis suf­fer from arthri­tis

South Waikato News - - NEWS - By CAITLIN WAL­LACE

Ev­ery day Gary Ver­coe suf­fers from the ‘‘ hid­den ill­ness’’ of arthri­tis and hopes to reach out to oth­ers who suf­fer the same fate.

Ver­coe plans to set up a per­ma­nent support group in Toko­roa to coin­cide with Arthri­tis Orange Ap­peal week.

To­day marks the first day of the ap­peal week and vol­un­teers will flock to the streets this Fri­day to fundraise for the cause.

Pro­ceeds will help support and pro­vide Arthri­tis Ed­u­ca­tor ser­vices.

Ver­coe is one of about 3700 South Waikato res­i­dents af­fected by the ill­ness.

He hopes that by shar­ing his story he will help oth­ers through their strug­gles.

Ver­coe was di­ag­nosed with se­vere arthri­tis about 40 years ago.

‘‘When I was work­ing at Kin­leith, there were big bales to lift . . . I couldn’t even lift my arms above my head.’’

He had no idea what arthri­tis was, let alone that he was af­fected.

Ver­coe said the aware­ness has in­creased since his di­ag­no­sis, but there were many who still had no idea what suf­fer­ers went through.

‘‘A lot of peo­ple, they don’t know un­less they have it.’’

The 69-year-old com­pared his pain to fire and said it’s like ‘‘burn­ing’’.

Sim­ple tasks such as dress­ing and bathing are ma­jor hur­dles.

It can take up to 20 min­utes to put on a but­toned shirt.

‘‘It can be fright­en­ing at times when you’re putting clothes on, you get them on so far and you have a panic at­tack.’’

He said that, though his case was se­vere, there were oth­ers who also strug­gled with the ill­ness and needed the support.

Arthri­tis ed­u­ca­tor Cather­ine Swift said more than 500,000 New Zealan­ders lived with arthri­tis, but ev­ery case was dif­fer­ent.

‘‘It doesn’t af­fect some peo­ple in the same way . . . there are no two Garys,’’ she said.

Most peo­ple have heard of the ill­ness, but peo­ple are un­aware of who it can af­fect and that there are about 140 forms of it.

Swift vis­its Toko­roa monthly to help peo­ple with ques­tions about arthri­tis.

Hard times: Gary Ver­coe some­times strug­gles to but­ton up his shirt due to his arthri­tis, but he pushes through the chal­lenges to help oth­ers in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion.

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