Home / Feros Stories / Overcoming the debilitating effects of rheumatoid arthritis

Overcoming the debilitating effects of rheumatoid arthritis

Mackay resident Peter Jamieson has had his fair share of medical misfortune but despite all he is loving life and has managed to overcome the debilitating effects of rheumatoid arthritis on his hands and finger with support from the NDIS.

Give Peter a block of wood and before you know it, he’ll hand you back a beautiful piece of unique craftsmanship.

The master wood turner, now 68, only turned his hand to his chosen craft when he moved to Mackay in 2010 after spending his working life as a plumber before rheumatoid arthritis forced an early end to his career.

“When I first got to Mackay I went to visit my new doctor and on the way back I saw a sign on a shed saying ‘Mackay Wood Turners’, so when I got back from a trip to Victoria I drove in there and got the phone number,” he says.

“I rang it and found out they met on a Sunday, so I went in the following Sunday, signed up then and there and I’ve been going ever since for 11½ years.”

Rheumatoid arthritis no match for Peter

Given his trade background it didn’t take long for him to pick up the skills “by watching the other members”.

Since then his abilities have expanded to the point he now mentors new members while turning out an ever-expanding repertoire of his own handmade creations – bowls, clocks, rolling pins, pens, chopping boards, salt and pepper shakers, in fact pretty much anything up to and including dining room tables.

What makes Peter’s skillset even more remarkable is that, as well as significant deformities to fingers on both hands, he’s also missing a finger on his left hand and has limited movement in his left thumb following surgery to remove his thumb flexor – a direct consequence of his rheumatoid arthritis.

Multiple operations

The condition causes pain and deformity to the joints of his upper and lower limbs and has led to multiple other surgeries, including two left forefoot reconstructions, one right foot operation, five left knee operations and the removal of his left knee cap. Many of these operations involved fusing joints together, which eases pain but restricts flexibility.

He’s also had a total right hip replacement and has had his gallbladder and all of his large bowel removed.

Peter says he struggled for many years to get by until he joined the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) four years ago.

“I can’t tell you how much my life has improved since then,” Peter says. “I almost didn’t survive to see the day following emergency bowel surgery in 2015 after a severe attack of diverticulitis.

“The first operation didn’t go too well and my stomach burst open after I got home, luckily my brother was with me and he got an ambulance to take me straight back to hospital where I lay in a coma in the ICU for three weeks.”

Support to live independently

Peter ended up being transferred to Brisbane for his recovery, where he spent seven months in the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

“I’m good now, I’ve recovered from that and can mostly get around on my own, still living by myself and doing what I enjoy doing,” he says. “My Feros Care Local Area Coordinator Geri has been great in helping me get the supports I need to live independently.”

Peter has a mobility scooter to visit the local shops and can drive his own car when he needs to travel further afield.

Accessing physio and in-home support

His NDIS plan funds regular physio sessions and in-home support including weekly cleaning and yard maintenance, and he can access support workers if he requires them for activities outside the home.

NDIS funding has enabled him to purchase walking aids, orthotic boots, a foot massager and most recently a king single bed with an adjustable backrest and in-built massage function to help maintain blood circulation. He also has splints for his hands and wrists.

“There wouldn’t have been funding for anything like this back in the day,” Peter chuckles.

He has a small workshop set up on his verandah but the thing he struggles with most is what to do with all his wooden creations, which overflow into every corner of his living space – “I would just love to have my loungeroom back!”.

“I earn a few dollars selling my work through the club and doing jobs for people but mostly I do it because I enjoy it,” Peter says. “I give pieces away to family and friends yet it still doesn’t seem to make a dent in my collection.”

Share this story 
Ask a Feros Care expert
Who would you like to talk to?
Disability Support expert 9am - 4pm (AEST) Monday to Friday