Stacy's Story

A Mother Unable to Hold her Newborn Son: That’s Real Pain

Stacy Courtnay knows all about pain. Hers was uncontrolled for years due to her rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

She jokes now that stress from getting married is what gave her RA in the first place. Her pain started shortly after her wedding 17 years ago to her husband, Taylor, when she was 23.

But it wasn’t a joking matter. “My feet felt like they’d been pounded with a hammer. Then pain shot into my shoulders so I couldn’t even lift my arms, and it spread to my wrists, which swelled up,” she recalls.

Finally, at age 25, she was diagnosed and started on prednisone. The medication, intended to knock down the inflammation, helped her symptoms and she stayed on it. But 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.

“[Taylor] was the one who was taking care of me. Then when we had John, my parents, who lived about an hour away, moved in with us,” says Stacy, now 42. “I couldn’t physically hold John or feed him, and I would just lay in bed and cry. I had really bad postpartum depression just because I couldn’t take care of John, and I was in pain, and I was already tired from having a new baby.”

Stacy was desperate for a solution as she saw before her a lifetime of living on the sidelines, watching her son grow up with a mother who was unable to actively participate in his life.

She and her rheumatologist tried many different biologic medications, she explored alternative diets and other homeopathic medicines, but nothing helped. She was running out of options, but finally a doctor tried a different biologic drug.

“I call it my miracle drug. It has successfully controlled my RA symptoms without side effects since 2012.”

She does worry that her medication might stop working at some point. “I’ve always struggled with anxiety,” she says. “For so long I was so petrified of having this chronic disease because it’s not just your joints.” She knows it could also affect her organs or her eyesight, and the medications come with their own risks.

Stacy works with a therapist to manage her anxiety, but she works with the Arthritis Foundation because it allows her to feel empowered and in control. She is an active volunteer, fundraiser and advocate for the Arthritis Foundation, serving on the Patient Leadership Council and Atlanta leadership board and she was named the 2020 Walk to Cure Arthritis adult honoree.

“I love it, and I love connecting with the people and sharing our stories and our struggles,” she says. “I feel like I’m a success story, and I hope I give other people hope.”

You can give people like Stacy hope

For the 54 million adults and 300,000 children in America living with arthritis, pain is a way of life. In the Arthritis Foundation’s ongoing INSIGHTS study, 100% of respondents reported that their pain is so significant that it affects their daily lives. The Arthritis Foundation is here to change that. Make a donation and help us Get a Grip on Arthritis.

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Tell us what matters most to you. Change the future of arthritis.

By taking part in the Live Yes! INSIGHTS assessment, you’ll be among those changing lives today and changing the future of arthritis, for yourself and for 54 million others. And all it takes is just 10 minutes.

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Now is the time to make your voice count, for yourself and the entire arthritis community. 

Currently this program is for the adult arthritis community.  Since the needs of the juvenile arthritis (JA) community are unique, we are currently working with experts to develop a customized experience for JA families. 

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