Elisabeta Veres, Romania
"When I was in my late thirties I first experienced terrible back pain," Elisabeta Veres of Targu Mures recalls. "The pain was so strong that it stopped me in my tracks. Just breathing was painful."
Elisabeta, 65, a former office worker and mother of two, tried physiotherapy, which helped, but the pain reoccurred and lasted for another five years in spite of intensive physiotherapy.
"I went on with my life, but I was always limited by lingering pain," she says. "Then when I was 57 I fell and broke my right shoulder and elbow." Five years later Elisabeta began to feel intense pain in her hip and thigh. She consulted Dr. Iren Nagy, a rheumatologist and Chief Executive of ASPOR, the Association for Prevention of Osteoporosis in Romania. Dr. Nagy ordered a radiograph that showed that Elisabeta had two crushed vertebrae. When the doctor told her she had osteoporosis, Elisabeta finally had an explanation for her pain, a name for her problem, and most important, she could be treated.
Why was Elisabeta not diagnosed earlier?
"Doctors were rarely taught about osteoporosis," notes Dr. Nagy. Romania had no densitometers until 1995, when they first appeared in only a few big medical centres. In 1999 ASPOR borrowed a densitometer from a pharmaceutical company for 10 days to test ASPOR members and the public. This is when Elisabeta was tested and her doctors confirmed that she had the disease.
"If Elisabeta's doctors know what we know now they would have realized that she was at high risk of getting osteoporosis," says Dr. Nagy. "She experienced early menopause after her periods became irregular in her late thirties. Her dislike of milk, ever since an upset stomach at age 13, suggested a low calcium intake. She had also begun to notice a loss of height when her old clothes no longer fit properly. In addition Elisabeta's mother had had a leg fracture in her 50's and dowager's hump by the time of her death she too most likely was an unsuspecting victim of the silent epidemic."
A quiet and self-disciplined woman, Elisabeta does not like to complain of her pain. She has become an active member of the ASPOR gym group for people with osteoporosis and has changed her lifestyle. "After I learned about osteoporosis I changed my diet. I eat dairy foods like yoghurt and go on a long walk every day. I take calcium supplements and medications, although the drugs are so expensive I can't take them regularly," she says. "And, I go to the gym group regularly, which I enjoy very much."
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