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Andrew Wishart, Australia


Andrew is 41 and and a mature student in his last year of earning a degree in architecture. Two years ago, at age 39, Andrew was dis mantling a cupboard at home and after a big push, he felt something in his rib area. He knew immediately that a rib had fractured.

An X-ray confirmed his fears and his GP referred him right away for a bone mineral density test, as it's very unusual for a 39 year old man to have a rib fracture after such minimal trauma. Luckily she did, as the bone mineral density (BMD) test showed Andrew had severe osteoporosis.

Andrew's specialist suggested an initial treatment of calcium supplements and a once-weekly bisphosphanate tablet, an anti-resorptive drug that slows down or halts the loss of bone.

Andrew has a family history of osteoporosis – his father's mother has severe osteoporosis, as does his mother's sister. And interestingly, Andrew has a twin brother. Andrew's brother has probably not had a fracture, but is unwilling to have a BMD, because if it does show osteoporosis (without a fracture) he would have to pay for medications for the rest of his life – he does not want to put that financial burden onto his young family.

"When I was first asked to have a BMD, I thought, what is this?" Andrew recounts. "When my doctor said she was investigating the possibility of me having osteoporosis, I was somewhat dismayed as it was an 'old woman's disease', so why waste my time? But I trusted my doctor and had the test. Waiting for the results was no problem, as I didn't expect any bad news."

About a week later, as he telephoned his doctor's secretary to cancel the next appointment, his doctor contacted him to ask him to come in. "Now I was getting my first sense that maybe something might be wrong", said Andrew. "My doctor confirmed that I had osteoporosis and I was beginning to realize that my life was changing. Until now, I might get sick but the problem would go away; only now I had something that was going to be there always."

Andrew went home and decided to do some research. "My disappointment began as I realized there really is not a lot of information about osteoporosis and men. Females and males of all ages need to know about the risks of an illness that does not discriminate between the sexes. Even when men are mentioned, it relates to being about 65 years old and onward. I began to get quite depressed, wondering why I had an 'old person's' illness." The lack of information, especially regarding how it affects younger men, made me start to feel that I had suddenly become an old man. It was not so much the thought of the illness that depressed me, but the fact that I thought my body was 'giving out on me' or starting to 'decay' at an early age.

"When I first began taking medication, the next morning I felt like I had pain in all my bones and spent the day in bed. This pain subsided the next day. The following week, I was ready for this 'side effect', only to find that it was not as severe this time. Over a period of four weeks, the side effects from the medication were hardly noticeable. The only time I notice pain now is if I forget to take my medication and have it late. But this pain is only minimal."

"Having osteoporosis has made me more aware of my day to day actions. I have started to be more careful when using stairs, and everyday activities take place with a sense of 'care'. I think twice about lifting/pushing heavy items and try to avoid this activity if I can. Thankfully, being a mature student, I am not faced with this situation too many times. I am fortunate that my life, apart from this 'care' attitude, has not really changed. But I know that this could all change in the future."

Happily, a recent test showed Andrew has an improvement in his bone density.

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