Today is World Arthritis Day and ei0178 asked me to share Lucy’s story, so here it is, taken from her autobiography Love, Lucy:
I was standing on the dais for a fitting when suddenly I felt as if both my legs were on fire. The pain was excruciating. Hattie kindly sent me to her own doctor, around the corner on Fifth Avenue. He told me that the pains were arthritic, possibly rheumatoid arthritis. This is an incurable disease which becomes progressively more crippling until the sufferer ends up in a wheelchair for life.
“You must go to a hospital at once,” Hattie’s doctor told me. I did some rapid calculations. “I only have eighty-five dollars to my name,” I told him. He then gave me the address of an orthopedic clinic up near Columbia University. That night I sat waiting my turn for three hours while the city’s poor, some of them horribly crippled, went in and out. It was ten o’clock before my turn came.
The clinic doctor examined me and shook his head. I was by this time crying and half fainting from the pain. He asked if he could try a new and radical treatment, some kind of horse serum, and I said yes, for God’s sake, anything. For several weeks I stayed in my room, and he came and gave me injections; finally when my money ran out and my legs still were not better, there was nothing left to do but go home to Jamestown. One of my beaux drove me to Grand Central Station and pushed me to the train in a wheelchair. I was discouraged but not terribly frightened. The confidence of the young is remarkable.
Johnny met my train at Buffalo and drove me to my family’s apartment on Wilcox Avenue. Daddy was back home again, thank goodness. He lectured me on taking better care of myself, and DeDe, although still working all day long herself, devoted her evenings to massaging my legs and cheering me up.
For the first few months I was in such pain that time passed kind of in a blur. We kept up the horse serum injections, which were considered a highly experimental, even last-ditch experiment. I was a guinea pig who survived, and the pain gradually subsided. Finally the day came when, with the support of Daddy and the doctor, I shakily stood up. We found that my left leg was now somewhat shorter than my right leg. It also pulled sideways, and to correct this, I wore a twenty-pound weight in one of my ugly black orthopedic shoes. The metal weight felt cold against my foot, and the pain as I clomped around was like needles. For my morale, I wore some heavy blue satin pajamas that I had bought on sale at Hattie’s.
One happy result of my long illness was that I did learn to take better care of myself.