Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Who is ARTHUR? And why is he hurting our kids?

It’s not a new idea. If anything it was overheard. I was at my very first Arthritis Information Meeting as a new staff person for the Arthritis Foundation about two and a half years ago when I first heard his name mentioned. It wasn’t from a Doctor. It wasn’t from any of my staff friends or volunteers. It was from this funny senior lady in a wheelchair. She had an amazing sense of humor and was making me laugh throughout the meeting much to the dismay of my supervisor.

Then she said it; a sentence that still intrigues me today. “Arthur sure is doing a job on my knees today.” First of all I had no idea what she was talking about so I kind of smiled and kept trying to figure out what she said. And then, she kept mentioning Arthur. So I finally asked her outright…Who’s Arthur? She was there with two lady friends who giggled politely at my naivety, or stupidity. “Well child (She actually called me child, I loved that being over 40 and all), Arthur is my nickname for my arthritis. You see, we’ve been together for awhile now and I feel I’ve earned the right to call him Arthur”.

That was the whole exchange! But yet, I felt like for the first time someone was letting me in on an inside secret for people with arthritis. Many of them refer to arthritis as Arthur. No big thing to most people, but having just tried to get an interview on 4 different morning shows, I was struggling to prove to my media friends that talking about arthritis would be entertaining and not just educational. Even since that day, the majority of the people I talk to in media or even in corporations trying to get sponsorships or support, arthritis often doesn’t seem important enough because it’s that disease we all get when we get older. Something no one really wants to hear or think about until they have to. I often wonder if we did a poll to all the people in the USA how many of them would realize that 46 million Americans live with the disease including 300,000 children. I wonder how many would know it’s the leading cause of disability in America and can sometimes be fatal in children and adults. These are facts that now I’m able to ramble off like the alphabet because I work for the Arthritis Foundation.

After much thought and discussing it with a few key volunteers, we decided to personify arthritis by giving him a full name. Mr. Arthur Itis. We have even started a Florida State Facebook page for him where close to 800 people that are currently connected to the disease share and support each other, trade stories, post articles, and connect.

For those of you with a connection to arthritis, I encourage to try a month long experiment and feel free to comment back with what you discovered. Anytime you go to use the word arthritis, substitute it with Arthur. If nothing else, it makes people wonder what you are saying and they’ll ask you to repeat yourself and listen closer. In some cases, it will really make them listen! For example “Arthur hasn’t been very kind to my daughter this week, she’s been in serious pain”. Or even “Arthur sent my son to the hospital”. Even though it wasn’t initially a new idea, I have found that personifying arthritis into “Arthur” has made the disease just a little more relatable.

I also firmly believe that children with arthritis have a better time with visualization exercises and relating directly to their illness if it has a person’s name. I’ve even asked some of the kids I’ve been working with to draw a picture of Arthur and the results have been surprising and interesting. It’s much harder to draw a picture of arthritis.

So join me and some of my friends in not only changing the face of arthritis by showing people just how many different ages and types of people are affected, help us change his name to something a little more user friendly and attention getting. We need all the help we can to get people talking about Arthur!


Related Quote: "Words have meaning and names have power". & "They do certainly give very strange, and newfangled, names to diseases.”

Related Song: THE NAME GAME (Remix) -Shirley Ellis

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