Four years ago, Dave Hall could barely ride a bike. He knew how to ride a bike, and had ridden a bike most of his life, he just wasn’t sure if he could bear the pain at that time. Dave has ankylosing spondylitis and fights severe pain that radiates down his lower back, waist and legs. For someone who has been extremely active for most of his life, living with a chronic illness has been rough. Four years ago, after a medication he had been taking for a decade stopped working, he had to severely alter his activity level due to pain.
In 1994, Dave had just graduated college and was living in upstate New York. During a ski trip to Colorado he fell on the slopes. The next morning, he woke up stiff but brushed it off. As an athlete his entire life, he was used to aches and pains after minor injuries. There was only problem this time: This injury didn’t get better. And as a new graduate, Dave didn’t have a job or health insurance
A few months after his injury, Dave found work with health insurance and went to see a doctor about his pain. Despite x-rays and MRIs, Dave’s pain was misdiagnosed as a sprained muscle for years and he was told he just needed physical therapy and massage. “For someone who had been very active, I played soccer, lacrosse, and skied, feeling that way was a complete 180 from normal life,” says Dave. “Not knowing what was going on was very demoralizing. I didn’t have a sense at the time just how depressed I was.”
In 1998, Dave moved to Seattle. He had worked, and still does, in the healthcare industry with kids who struggle with serious mental health conditions. A colleague knew of Dave’s chronic back pain and suggested he see a sports medicine physician. Finally, Dave was referred to rheumatologist Dr. Steve Overman and given a formal diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis. After starting prescription medication, he began to feel better. Dave could play soccer again, he felt like he had a new lease on life.
Dr. Overman was Dave’s rheumatologist until his retirement last year. For Dr. Overman’s retirement, he assembled a group of people to ride in the Arthritis Bike Classic Oregon and Dave joined the team. “It was a precious experience and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show my gratitude for the brilliant and lovely man who diagnosed my condition and took such thoughtful care of me,” says Dave. “I will always be indebted to him.”
Dave went from not knowing if he could stand the pain from riding a bike to cycling over 300 miles last year in the Arthritis Bike Classic Oregon. During the ride, he heard stories from riders and guest speakers about living with arthritis, challenges they had faced. “I had always kept silent about my arthritis experience,” says Dave. “Along the ride, it finally hit me; this is an opportunity to share my story.” He started by telling his fellow riders of his experience with ankylosing spondylitis on one evening during the ride.
Dave has continued sharing his story. He went to a JA camp and shared his story and reached out to the rheumatology department at Seattle Children’s Hospital where he works. Now, Dave wants to share his story to help people understand what it’s like to live with arthritis. “I want people to educate themselves about arthritis, find out how it impacts people in so many different ways,” says Dave. “People don’t know how difficult it is to live with chronic pain that is invisible.”
Dave is riding in the Arthritis Bike Classic Oregon again this year starting on September 17. To learn more about Dave’s experience living with ankylosing spondylitis or support fundraising efforts for the Arthritis Bike Classic Oregon, visit his fundraising page.