The stress of losing a child caused a young mother to experience such physical and emotional trauma that she can no longer WALK.
In December 2013 Rena Ramani, 36, lost her son Kayen to pneumonia. In the wake of her child’s sudden death, Mrs Ramani began experiencing excruciating pain in her joints to the point where she struggled even to move her limbs.
Doctors told her that the stress of bereavement had been enough to trigger the onset of debilitating psoriatic arthritis – a development connected to the severe psoriasis she has experienced since her early teens.
She said: “Through pregnancy and motherhood I managed to cope with my health problems by focussing squarely on my son.
“The week he died, everything came tumbling down. I woke up one day unable to move my body enough to get out of bed.
“I have to use a walking stick to get around now, even though I’ve never had to do so before.”
Mrs Ramani, a makeup artist of Edgware, north London, was diagnosed with psoriasis – an incurable condition of accelerated cell growth which leads to flaky, irritated skin all over the body – when she entered puberty.
After struggling with low confidence on account of the condition during her adolescence, she was introduced to her husband Diyen, 40, a motor parts supplier, through a family friend when she was 18.
The couple married in 2001, but Mrs Ramani’s condition worsened and she found herself crippled by depression and suicidal thoughts.
She recalled: “After every flare-up, things just seemed to get more severe. It took longer and longer to recover from them. I was in pain constantly.
“I told Diyen that I was running out of energy. I wasn’t sure that if I had another bad flare-up whether I’d be to face it. I told him I wanted to end everything. It was very difficult for him to experience seeing me in such pain, and not being able to do anything about it, but he was very strong for me and held me together.
“I was sure I wouldn’t be able to have children. Firstly, I was worried that I would pass my condition on. Then I thought it would be impossible to conceive while I was on so many drugs.
“There was always the fear that if I wasn’t well enough to look after myself, how could I look after a child?”
Despite the odds stacked against the couple, in September 2010 Mrs Ramani fell pregnant. To her amazement she found the hormonal shift to have a profound healing effect.
She said: “My psoriasis completely cleared up, almost as if someone had flipped a switch. I felt amazing. All my life I had hidden away because of the pain. For the first time I felt as if I could come out of my shell.
“I knew it wouldn’t last – that as soon as my baby was delivered, the condition would return.
“But having a baby changed everything for me. I had something wonderful to focus on. I put all my thoughts and energy into being the best mother I could and, somehow, I was able to suppress the strain my health conditions were putting on my body.”
Three weeks after Kayen was born in April 2011, doctors told Mr and Mrs Ramani that their son had mucolipidosis II, also known as I Cell disease, a rare and life-limiting condition completely unconnected to Mrs Ramani’s health problems.
The condition meant that by the time Kayen passed his second birthday, he was still the size of a six-month old baby.
Then, in December 2013, little Kayen developed pneumonia and was rushed to hospital.
Mrs Ramani said: “He’d been doing very well despite his challenges. When he arrived in hospital he was really tired, and just couldn’t fight it. It was very sudden. He died within the space of 48 hours.”
Devastated, Mrs Ramani experienced a wave of physical and emotional pain which left her bedbound.
She said: “I took each day at a time. Some days I spent every waking minute crying. People gently suggested we might be able to try for a baby again one day, but we knew in our hearts that the pain would never get better, only worse. The one person who we wanted to be there with us – Kayen – was gone.
“I was incredibly stressed, and it triggered an enormous flare-up of psoriasis.
“I also found that it became excruciatingly painful to move my arms and legs. I had been coping with the signs of psoriatic arthritis for around a year – little irritating pains which flared up but quickly went away.
“Now, the pain was constant. It’s well-known that psoriasis is connected to stress levels, and the experience of losing my son led to the full onset of psoriatic arthritis.”
Today, Mrs Ramani is taking different combinations of drugs in attempt to bring her arthritis under control but in the meantime she must rely on walking aids to get around.
She said: “It’s been incredibly difficult for me and my husband. I know that every year when we get to April it will be very hard for us.
“We’re not ready to think about having other children yet. We don’t talk about it. The journey we’ve been on as a family has been so painful that we need to concentrate on getting through the days together.
“But we have a good support network of family and friends, so we’re not on our own.”
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