A patient of the Baptist for the past three decades, Marilyn Getz has had two hip replacements, spine surgery, a knee replacement, and injections in her hands with the Hospital. She has asthma and is prone to getting infections, and for years she has had osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, the “wear and tear” form of arthritis that affects hard-working joints over time.
But several years ago, Ms. Getz, a Quincy resident, was also diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation from RA causes the disease’s hallmark painful, swollen joints, but it can also result in fatigue, fever, numbness, bones that fracture easily, and a number of other symptoms—a significant strain on quality of life for someone as active as Ms. Getz, an avid traveler who retired from a career in inside sales management a few years ago. She walks daily (often along the waterfront south of Boston), gardens in warm weather, and spends a lot of time with her nephew’s young children.
Dr. Gerald Miley, Ms. Getz’s NEBH physician, specializes in rheumatology and infectious disease—a perfect match for someone with her health concerns and lifestyle.
“When I first met Dr. Miley, I didn’t know he was an RA doctor, and I didn’t know I had RA—nor did I expect to get it down the road,” said Ms. Getz, who first saw Dr. Miley years ago when he treated her for pneumonia. “But when I was diagnosed with RA, it was nice to be able to stay with the Baptist for all my care.”
It is not uncommon for individuals to have both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, according to NEBH rheumatologist Monica Piecyk, MD. “Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of chronic inflammatory arthritis, and osteoarthritis is very common as we age,” says Dr. Piecyk.
Soon after her RA diagnosis, Ms. Getz began to experience severe pain in her joints. Although a new class of medications, called biologics, recently became available for rheumatoid arthritis patients, Ms. Getz is not a candidate.
“Marilyn’s asthma makes her vulnerable for respiratory infections, and you cannot take one of the biologic agents if you have an infection,” explains Dr. Miley. Instead, she began to take a combination of two drugs called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which can relieve joint pain and stiffness and regulate the immune system—controlling the disease process itself rather than the resulting symptom, pain. She returns to the Baptist for careful monitoring every four months. “Marilyn has responded well, and we were able to lower the dose over time,” says Dr. Miley.
“Now, I have an occasional ache, especially in the damp weather,” Ms. Getz says, for which she takes over-the-counter acetaminophen as needed. “But my hands are strong; they still work. I’m lucky.”
Ms. Getz says she is grateful to Dr. Miley and the Baptist for personalized, multidisciplinary rheumatology care that she can get in one place, from diagnosis to treatment with novel drugs and the latest surgical techniques. She’s feeling so well that she has at least three big trips planned for the year ahead: she’ll travel to Scotland, Florida, and one of her favorite places, Hawaii.
“The care at the Baptist is excellent,” she says. “That’s what comes first: the care, the doctors, the environment, the surgery. For a joint replacement, there’s no place else to go, in my opinion.”
Ms. Getz says she is also grateful that she can get all her rheumatology care in the same place. “The Baptist is not large; you don’t feel like you’re getting lost there,” she says. “It’s very comfortable, the nurses are wonderful, and you feel safe, but what comes first is the outstanding care.”