Getting burnt by the invisible fire
Half a million Kiwis suffer from arthritis
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.