Wellness for every body

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

My name is Bill Hobman and I have been a patient of Queen Elizabeth Hospital since I was affected by Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis as a 12 year old.

Almost 50 years later I guess I am one of a few long term patients still actively receiving treatment on a regular basis to keep mobile against increasingly difficult ongoing age related conditions and body disablements.


I have been asked to contribute this brief biography to QE Health in the hope that it may help others get the chance to receive the sort of help and treatment that I have had over the years to gain, for themselves, the ability to have a useful and full life expectancy and hopefully a means to maintain an employment focus while coping with what has been, to me, a lifelong fight with a crippling disease.

My story starts as a 12 year old in hospital with suspected Rheumatic Disease and not responding to the treatment regime of the day. A second opinion from a QE doctor, Dr Irwin Isdale, saw me transfer to QE in what was to become my “second home” for the next few years. Swelling in the hands and ankles became the norm and after nearly 3 months in hospital I was released and allowed to return to Intermediate school but requiring help with transport to and from school each day. Gradually as strength and wellness returned, and the arthritis appeared to “burn itself out”, the prospect of a normal teenage active life seemed a good possibility. I even got to the stage where riding a bicycle was something I enjoyed doing. At times during this period the occasional “twinge” and aching joints was a reminder that the arthritis was never too far from mind and schoolwork at High school also put pressure on the body, to do well towards exams and working towards a career of some type.


While out helping a mate with his paper run one wet day I got soaked and thereby a bad cold. Two days later I was back in QE and barely able to move. Yes, I had what they call a “flare-up”. Now the Rheumatoid really took advantage and within a matter of a couple of weeks the arthritis spread throughout the rest of the body affecting each joint – from the toe joints to the neck and even the jaw bone – in different ways and varying severity.


The next 12 months were a traumatic time for me as I spent weeks and even months at a time in hospital undergoing treatments and counselling to come to terms with this condition that saw me undergo major hip surgery and to sleeping with plaster splints on both hands at night. At that point many had predicted a life in a wheelchair was the destiny for me.


Slowly with lots of treatment of physiotherapy and lots of hours in the various QE hot pools, fitness on elbow crutches came back to me gradually, and support workers arranged for me to attend an assessment course in Auckland to gauge what type of employment – yes “work” – I might be capable of (carpentry and car mechanic my early teen choices having been thrown out the window). More physio and pool sessions on my return home eventually gained me a “job interview” at the Rotorua Daily Post newspaper in the library and editorial production doing clerical work and having a chance to help out in the proof reading section. Well, as history as shown, I spent 34 years in the one building and one job rising up to become Chief Proof Reader. At that time I quit the job because of my health deteriorating and also as my late wife had suffered a massive stroke and required extra care.


Since giving up work other health issues have come to the fore including a major problem in crushed vertebrae in the neck causing loss of feeling and strength in my arms and legs requiring major spinal surgery to correct. This caused me to finally become a wheelchair user to keep my mobility and an active participant in the community through the Total Mobility taxi discount scheme as a Rotorua co-ordinator and to also participate in the Queen Elizabeth Patients’ Association.


Throughout my working life if it had not been for the availability of suitable treatment at necessary times for me at QE in Rotorua, then my outcome and story could very well have been a short one.


People come to Rotorua for treatments available through QE. I stayed here because of it.


Bill Hobman