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How Les Got His Swing Back

October 21, 2013
Les Christie started having trouble with his feet when he was just 50 years old. By the time he was 55, his rheumatoid arthritis was so severe that his ankles, knees, and hands were very swollen and painful. “I was having trouble getting in and out of chairs, cars, and bed,” he says. “I couldn’t pick up things with my hands or open containers.” He tried the available medications, but they didn’t help at all or were effective only for about 6 months. He was getting tired, depressed, and scared. 

Les knew that he was running out of options, that the arthritis could damage his joints and leave him disabled for life. “That’s a rough future to face when you have always been a very active guy.” Then his doctor, research principal investigator and rheumatologist James Loveless, MD told him about a new drug that was available through a clinical research trial. “I didn’t hesitate,” Les says. “What did I have to lose?”

The drug was slow acting, so it took about 3-4 months after treatment began before he noticed any real differences. “Those first months were difficult,” Les remembers, but then the swelling and pain began to reduce. “I started getting better—and continued to get better.” 

At first, Les was just happy to be able to get out of bed and open a carton of milk. Then he began thinking about his lost love—golf. Before arthritis, he had played once or twice a week, even in the winter in Colorado before he moved to Boise. Les began talking about golf with Dr. Patrick Knibbe during his study appointments. At one visit, Les complained that it was difficult to “get loose” in the winter climate. Dr Knibbe wrote him a prescription—to swing a golf club daily in the living room to reduce joint stiffness. 

“I framed that prescription and hung it on my wall at work,” Les says with a big grin. Then he got serious about following the doctor’s orders, first at home, then on local golf courses. Now he is back in full swing. For the past 3 years, he has been playing regularly in summer golf leagues and with friends from Hewlett-Packard where he works as an engineer.

Les, now 64, is well aware that there are risks to participating in health research. Still, he is grateful that he had the opportunity to help others with “this painful and depressing disease.” The drug is on the market now, and he only hopes it helps others as much as it helped him. His voluntary participation was much more than a clinical experience, he says. “The doctors and research staff made me feel like part of a family.” For him, the benefits were huge. “I tried something new, and it turned my life around. I’ll always be extremely grateful to the great team that helped me through this difficult part of my life.”

Related Specialty

Rheumatology

Diagnosis and therapy for conditions affecting joints, muscles, and bones such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.