When Anna Nolan-Pang was invited to speak at Arthritis Ireland’s JA Family Day for children with arthritis, the visit was an eye-opener for both her and her husband Jonathan.
Having been diagnosed with JA at the age of two, Anna, from Dundalk, grew up without access to many of the supports and services provided by Arthritis Ireland today.
Last year, she stood proudly at the finish line as Jonathan completed his first Irish marathon, a feat which raised €400 to go towards badly-needed support services for Arthritis Ireland.
And the couple’s visit to a JA Family Day was a chance to see where some of that money is being spent.
A delighted Anna explained: “I really love that there’s a family day for kids, and it’s great for their siblings to be able to talk to other families in the same position. When I was younger my siblings didn’t really know what was happening with me because my parents were always busy taking me to appointments.”
She added: “I’ve never known a life without arthritis. Growing up I missed lots of school because of it. I couldn’t go out to play in the yard because I always had sore legs. My mam would drop me right at the door of the classroom. I felt like I stuck out as someone different. It was very difficult for my parents because at the time there wasn’t as much knowledge about arthritis and there wasn’t a well developed support network.”
Anna’s condition deteriorated throughout her teens until she had both hips replaced at the age of 22. Yet it didn’t stop her from jetting off to college in California where she first met Jonathan.
He recalled: “I didn’t know much about arthritis before I met Anna. In fact I was really confused when she told me about it because I didn’t know young people could have it too. She has always had a great attitude and she makes sure to tell me whenever she’s inhibited in some way so she can stop and rest.”
After tying the knot in August 2012, Anna and Jonathan initially settled in California but have since returned to Anna’s home in Louth.
And a major factor in their move was the medical and practical support available for people with arthritis in Ireland.
Anna revealed: “I’ve had the same rheumatologist since I was a child and they know my history, so it made sense to move home. I’ve also been lucky enough to attend support meetings and information talks organised by Arthritis Ireland over the years and that has really helped me to manage my condition. I even got involved in an Arthritis Ireland campaign a few years ago and that taught me not to be embarrassed about arthritis and to be more open about it.”
The keen runner signed up for last October’s Dublin City Marathon, raising funds for Arthritis Ireland along every step of the 26.2 mile course.
The experience taught him a lot about the generosity of the general public.
“No one likes to ask for money but when I started fundraising I quickly noticed how generous people here are when it comes to supporting charities”, he said.
“I put a post on my Facebook page and people who saw it were very quick to help out.”
He added: “When we went to the JA Family Day it was great to see that the money is being put to good use. I’m so pleased that I was able to help in some small way in Anna’s honour and hopefully I’ll do it again.”
And his delighted wife is thrilled to have inspired such an impressive fundraising effort, insisting: “I was so proud of Jonathan when he did the marathon and we really noticed that people were so supportive. Arthritis is much more common than we think and most people know someone who has it. Thankfully they understand the importance of supporting causes like this because it really does make a difference.”
*Arthritis Ireland would like to say a BIG thank you to Jonathan for his generous support and congratulations on completing his first Irish marathon!
Do you have a family member or friend willing to raise funds in honour of people with arthritis?
Here’s how they can do it:
- Choose your own special challenge, whether it’s a triathlon, a walk, a skydive or something completely different.
- Register with Arthritis Ireland here and receive your “I’m doing it for my …” t-shirt as well as tips for successful fundraising.
- Reach out to your family and friends – in person and online – and invite them to support a worthy cause.
- Enjoy the event and return the funds to Arthritis Ireland where they will be used to fund our work in branches all over the country.