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David Tomlinson, UK

"There's a huge lack of awareness among doctors."

"The travel industry was my life," David Tomlinson admits. "I do miss it."

His professional career came to an end in May 1998 at the age of 44. As manager of a travel agency in Yorkshire, UK, David was invited with other agents to a familiarization trip to Dubai. One of the local hotels arranged a social get together on the beach. "We were playing volleyball", he remembers. "I went to hit the ball, missed it completely and crashed on my back. The pain was excruciating, I couldn't move."

He was taken to a hospital in Dubai which showed a fracture of the lumbar area of the spine. After ten days in Dubai he was flown on a stretcher to England.

Then began a frustrating and painful eight months. He was in and out of hospital, seeing "a different consultant at each visit." He was given pain killers, and a support corset. Nothing worked. "Even sitting caused great pain; it was better to lie flat or stand. It even hurt to breathe."

David wanted to return to work but couldn't drive the 25 miles to his office. He asked a friend to drive him, but nevertheless the pain was so great that he couldn't continue.

"My employer was initially understanding," David recalls. "He paid me a portion of my normal salary but as time went on he pressured me to let him know when I would return to work. I was totally distressed. My job was everything to me but I physically couldn't do it."

Fed up with the national health system, David sought out a private consultant. After several months of tests the consultant came up with a dramatic theory, telling David "you might have a tumor on your spine." But the consultant suggested a second opinion.

David sought yet another opinion. By mid-December 1998 David was introduced to a professor who diagnosed severe osteoporosis.

The scans showed that since his initial accident David had suffered 11 additional vertebral fractures.

"I had never heard of osteoporosis," David recalls. The doctor told me I had the spine of someone twice my age. But it didn't make sense. I've always eaten milk, cheese, and yogurt. I've always played sports."

David Tomlinson was forced to retire from his job. He still can't sit for any length of time. He joined the National Osteoporosis Society in the UK. "They've helped me tremendously" he says. "I'm secretary of the local osteoporosis support group and I see other people my age or younger with osteoporosis. Obviously there's a huge lack of awareness among doctors -- they think it only affects older people."

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