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Gout and You

"I Just Wanted To Die, Because Living With This Pain Was Unbearable"

Jim Alder* from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania fantasized about offing himself--or getting the hospital to cut off his leg. As he lay abed, he reviewed and discarded suicide methods one by one as impractical until he realized his best option was to somehow convince the hospital to amputate the offending member: his gouty toe.  "I just wanted to die, because living with this pain was unbearable."

"I Wanted To Be The Healthy Guy"

Jim is the first to admit that the severity of his attacks was due to his dislike of adding to his regular regime of medication. "I was already taking medicine for this or that condition. Taking all those medications made me feel bad-like I was an invalid, or old, or something. I wanted to be the healthy guy in the orange juice commercial, but here I was, taking 4 pills twice a day. I just didn't want to add another pill to my regimen.

So instead, here I was, ruining what quality of life I had by refusing to take the medication for my gout. I ended up with chronic pain and really severe attacks, 3 or 4 times a year."

Jim would have a bad attack, take Alopurinol for a couple of weeks, and then stop taking the medication once the most severe pain had subsided. He struggled with his chronic condition, developing a permanent, crystallized lump on the ball of his foot, which his doctor told him was called a tophus.

Three years ago, Jim had the most severe attack ever. The entire Alder clan was coming to celebrate the Passover holiday, with the ceremonial meal or Seder to be held in the Alder home. Jim had a gout attack just as the guests arrived and the pain was so bad he knew he couldn't join the family at the table. His cousins said that if Jim couldn't join the Seder, the Seder was coming to him. They proceeded to set up the Seder right in Jim's bedroom.

That Passover holiday remains a nightmarish memory--but that experience was the turning point for Jim. He knew that it was time for him to stop ignoring his gout and accept his need for regular gout medication. Now that Jim takes Alopurinol on a regular basis, serious attacks of gout are a thing of the past. He's had to give up the occasional, purine-laden beer, but that's a small price to pay for quality of life.