Faces of gout: Theresa C.

In recognition of National Gout Awareness Day on May 22, the American Kidney Fund (AKF) is sharing stories of people living with both kidney disease and gout, as well as educational resources on managing and treating this chronic and painful type of arthritis. One in 10 people with kidney disease has gout, and an even higher percentage of people with gout have kidney disease. To learn more about the connection between kidney disease and gout, visit AKF’s Goutful campaign at KidneyFund.org/gout. Goutful education content is made possible by Horizon Therapeutics.

Below is a letter patient Theresa C. wrote to her coworkers detailing the impact gout has had on her life.

Dear coworkers,

I tried to call in today for my 12-hour shift. When I told my manager that I was having a gout flare, she said, “is that all that is wrong? Do you have a fever? Are you vomiting?” I answered no to all those questions, so she told me there was no reason I couldn’t come in for work because of some sore joints. So here I am at work. I was in tears after walking from the parking garage to the 8th floor of our building. I might be moving slower today and am probably a little irritable. I am not lazy, and I am really trying not to be grumpy. I am also trying not to let you see me holding back the tears from some of the worst pain I have ever had.

You see, when I told you that I am having a gout flare, I hoped you would understand. The responses I got did not help me at all. You say, “isn’t gout what old people get? Isn’t that like arthritis? I thought you just had kidney problems. You must have a low pain tolerance. Can’t you just change your diet to fix it? They have medication for that.”

Well, I usually just brush off the comments and keep concentrating on getting through my shift and the walk back to my car. Today is different. Today I want to tell you a little about what gout really is to people like me.

Yes, I am young. Gout often goes hand in hand with kidney disease—from the youngest to the oldest of patients. Though gout is a type of arthritis, it is not like the common form of arthritis, and medications do not always prevent flares. When I have a flare, it is one of the most painful things I have ever dealt with, and I have had 4 children.

See, I don’t look sick, I don’t sound sick, but I am. I have crystals forming in the joints in my foot. These crystals cause excruciating pain when they grind around every time I take a step. The pain keeps me up at night, so not only am I in pain, I am exhausted. I don’t want to not work as hard or take longer to get things done; I am doing the best I can. I do take medication, but gout flares still happen. My failing kidneys cannot get rid of the uric acid in my body, so it hangs out in my foot causing pain. My foot feels like it is on fire, and just getting my shoe and sock on this morning took most of the energy I had for today. I actually think I have a really good tolerance for pain. I follow the food and fluid plan my doctor and dietitian have recommended for my kidney failure, and there is nothing further I can do.

So, please don’t think I don’t want to work today, or don’t care about my job or coworkers today. I am doing everything I can just to be here and get through my shift. Some days we all need a little extra support from our coworkers. Today is my day.

- Theresa C.


About the Author(s)

Theresa C., RN

Theresa C., RN, is a kidney disease and gout patient in Oklahoma.

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