A Mother Unable to Hold Her Newborn Son: That’s Real Pain
Stacy Courtnay jokes that stress from getting married is what triggered her rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Her pain started shortly after her wedding 18 years ago to her husband, Taylor, when she was 23.
But it wasn’t a joking matter. Her feet felt like they’d been pounded with a hammer. Then pain shot into her shoulders so she couldn’t lift her arms, and it spread to her wrists, which swelled up. She was finally diagnosed at age 25 and started taking prednisone, which helped her symptoms. Her doctor wanted to start her on a biologic as well, but she was fearful it might interfere with her plans to have children. Within a couple of years, she was pregnant.
A Point of Desperation
Pregnancy brings relief from RA symptoms for some people — but not for Stacy. She had stopped the prednisone due to her pregnancy. But without it she couldn’t even walk, so she had to resume the medication. (Despite the risk and her worries, she and her baby were not affected by it.)
After her son, John, was born, her RA only got worse. Stacy could barely move. Her husband had to carry her to the bathroom, and she could barely pick up a cup, much less her new baby.
Her rheumatologist started her on a biologic medication, which didn’t work for her. Neither did a second. Or a third. In 2012, she finally found her “miracle drug,” which has successfully controlled her RA side effects.
As she found that medicine that worked her son got older, she decided to get involved with the Arthritis Foundation and quickly became a valued volunteer. She is on the Patient Leadership Council and serves as a patient representative for several projects within the Foundation. She is also the chair of the Georgia Leadership Board and chaired Atlanta’s 40th Anniversary Crystal Ball in 2021 alongside her husband.
“I feel compelled to volunteer because the Arthritis Foundation is the reason I’m doing so well. All the funding that they put into biologics meant I found a drug that finally worked for me. It’s a journey, and most people don’t get it right with the first drug. I love how much money the Foundation puts into research for finding better, safer treatments so that everybody finds something that works for them.”
But as she started getting more involved, it was the people that kept her coming back. “It was the people that I met—the employees, the other arthritis patients, the volunteers—that really drew me in,” Stacy shared. “Everybody has a different story, but a very similar story. We’re all dealing with the same challenges of arthritis, whether it’s physical or emotional, or access to care. I fell in love with the whole community.”
Stacy will also be attending the Arthritis Foundation’s upcoming Pathways Conference, which will be March 9-11 in San Francisco, CA. The annual conference allows volunteers to come together to learn about the latest programs and advancements, and celebrate the major impact they make on the arthritis community.
“I love meeting people from around the country, exchanging ideas and hearing what other areas are doing to further arthritis awareness,” said Stacy. “Bouncing ideas off other people who are in similar roles helps us react to challenges differently. I love hearing from the Foundation about what’s happening. I love hearing about all the great things that are coming down the pipeline and reconnecting with some of my favorite people. It’s always really fun. You get in the room with everyone that’s there for the same cause, and I always leave there feeling empowered, hopeful and energized. I think we have a really bright future and I love everything about it.”