PINNACLE — For Daniel Arrington, what should have been a simple case of bronchitis has blossomed into a life-changing event.
It all began in late 2009.
That year, Arrington started seeing a doctor for the respiratory condition and was put on prednisone.
The bronchitis, and accompanying prednisone, continued through the beginning of the following year before getting better, but more was to come.
“In the winter of 2010, I started having bronchitis again, and the bouts of it would last for two months or more,” Arrington, 31, said. “During that time I was put on prednisone for 10 days, and then the doctors would give me another dose of it.”
Which is when the real trouble began.
In early 2010, Arrington said he is a “little fuzzy” on the exact date, he began experiencing knee pain.
“The pain would appear about a week after my prednisone prescription was done, and there didn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason for it.”
By the end of 2010, Arrington had battled bronchitis with multiple prescriptions of prednisone for two winters. And the knee pain was getting worse.
“I went to see the doctor for my knee pain in the beginning of 2011 and went through several doctors,” he said. “They did x-rays and didn’t find anything.”
Arrington said he repeatedly told multiple physicians that he believed the prednisone, a synthetic steroid that mimics the effects of naturally-produced cortisol, was somehow connected to his knee pain.
“I noticed that every time I came off a prescription for it my knees would hurt,” he said.
The pain became much worse by 2011.
“From that point on, it was like my knee pain became more frequent. They’d give me a little bit of pain medication and tell me to stretch my legs out as needed,” he said. “But by the end of 2011 things started getting much, much worse.”
The pain became so bad that Arrington, who owned an automotive repair company, could barely work.
At the beginning of 2012, he had had enough.
“I was determined to find out what was going on,” he said.
Visits to multiple doctors, including orthopaedic specialists, yielded little more than “we can’t find anything wrong,” Arrington said.
“I got a lot of ‘it’s just normal knee pain associated with getting older,’” he said. “By that point it was evident that the doctors were done with me. I started crying during one appointment. I was pretty devastated.”
So Arrington and his wife Kristi, a surgical nurse at Wake Forest Baptist Health, began investigating on their own.
“In about 30 minutes I found out about avascular necrosis,” he said. “I printed it off and showed Kristi. It was all the symptoms I had.”
The U.S. National Institutes of Health define the condition, also known as osteonecrosis, as bone death caused by poor blood supply to an area. It is most common in the hip and shoulder, but can affect other large joints such as knee, elbow, wrist and ankle.
In April 2012, Arrington went to his family doctor with what he had learned.
“He looked at the papers I brought and shrugged it off, saying the condition primarily affects women and young people in the hips,” Arrington said.
Finally, on May 5, 2012, Arrington agreed to pay for an MRI out of his pocket to get to the bottom of the matter.
“On May 10, they called me and told me I had the early stages of osteonecrosis, the same thing as avascular necrosis, in both legs — both in the thigh bones and in the shin bones.”
Long-term use of steroids is a primary cause of avascular necrosis, or osteonecrosis, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
His wife talked to some surgeons at Baptist hospital, and they ordered him to come in within a week.
“When we told them what we’d been through, we found that it was caused by high doses of prednisone,” he said.
Arrington was immediately ordered to stay off his feet completely, and within a month and a half had surgery where doctors drilled holes in the bones in the hopes it would stimulate the formation of blood vessels.
There is little that can be done, although Arrington said he holds out hope for some improvement.
Now primarily confined to a wheel chair, Arrington said his life has changed through no fault of his own.
“It’s been one of the biggest battles I’ve ever fought,” he said. “I went from working 12 hours a day to support my family to having no income.”
He said he went through a “pretty dark time,” including thoughts of suicide, after the surgery and ensuing prognosis.
“Relying on God is the only thing that has brought us through it,” he said as Kristi sat by his side.
He said he doesn’t know whether he can hope to ever return to work.
“I’d like to be able to work again, but I just don’t know,” he said. “I’d like to be able to get out and play basketball and toss around a football with my children.
“I love working,” he added. “Being a man, I like to be the provider. I like taking care of my family, but I’ve gone from knowing what my future looked like to not knowing what’s just around the corner.”
And the financial burdens are ever-present for the family.
“In August 2011, I signed a 30-year mortgage on this house,” he said. “Now I’m filing for disability, which has been denied. The last day I worked was June 22, 2012.”
Quiet, he bowed his head.
“We’re appealing the denial,” he said.
He looked at his wife and smiled.
“If things change a year from now and we lose this house, we still have each other and we’ll be alright,” he said, clutching her hand. “I’d hate to lose it, but when we die, we don’t take anything with us. Not knowing what the future holds isn’t so scary any more.
“Kristi has been everything to me,” Arrington added. “She was everything before this happened, and she’s still everything. It’s like God placed her in my life.”
Arrington said anyone who would like to help can do so through Temple Baptist Church.
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.