I’m back from Brazil, and it’s true what they say: it’s “South of America!” After an exhausting 11 hour flight, on top of a two hour delay on the tarmac (thanks to a broken wiper)(American Airlines is good like that), I arrived in Rio last week. There was a very sweet woman awaiting my arrival, who assumed that I was a doctor…because she held a sign saying so. I didn’t bother to correct her, though, and we proceeded to take a tour of Rio as we made our way to the hotel. I was exhausted, in pain, and overstimulated by new sights, sounds and smells.
I went to Rio to attend “RheumaRio”, a regional conference of about 200 rheumatologists who convened for two days at a Copacabana Beach hotel to learn about the advances in treatment and research for adult and pediatric rheumatology. Heavy duty stuff, and organized by Dr. Roger Levy (from Brazil).
My role at the conference was the speaker during the first day, talking about the doctor patient relationship, and why it’s important for doctors to get to know their patients. Ultimately, we’re more than a condition, we’re all people. More than a disease, we have names. Some of us have more drama than others. Sometimes we like doing things and our arthritis gets in the way, and if the doctor never understands this, he or she may never actually treat the bigger problem. A lot of doctors came up to me afterward to tell me stories about their patients and how they related to what I was saying, which made the world feel very, very small. Here I was, this far away, and experiencing the same issues that occur in my own back yard. Arthritis really knows no borders.
Overall, the trip was great! My only regret was that last week I had a really bad flare – my back and hips were totally out of control. Bad, crippling pain and not made any better by the continual foot drama that has unfolded in my life (more on that another day). So I had a nice “ride” down there…with as much medication as I could muster to get me down in one piece. Traveling 5,000 miles is physically exhausting, even though most of the time you’re just sitting there. Which isn’t helped by very bad lower back pain.
I had to cut my trip short by three days to come home for some interviews and, frankly, to rest my back. I hope to return soon, in better condition than last time, so that I can take in the many sights and experiences that Rio has to offer. It’s an amazing place and I feel privileged to have visited.
To all of my new friends in Brazil I say: obrigado!