Kat works as a senior administrator for facilities here in the Dell Medical School, if you ever have the chance to walk through the Health Learning Building on campus, she’s one of the smiling faces that greets you in the lobby at the front desk. She’s been with Dell Med for three years but with The University of Texas at Austin for over 13 years. She absolutely loves what she does, enjoys walking, Zumba classes, dancing with her husband and traveling. She’s also been burdened by rheumatoid arthritis for about ten years that caused her constant pain, but after some radical lifestyle changes and a constantly positive attitude, she saw her quality of life drastically increase.
“About ten years ago I was experiencing a lot of joint pain, so I went to my primary care doctor, they ran a couple tests and they said I came back positive for rheumatoid arthritis. I literally couldn’t get out of bed I was in so much pain,” says Kat. “There were unexpected things that I found I really took for granted, like squeezing a tube of toothpaste or turning the ignition in my car, things like that were hard for me to do.”
After four long months of waiting to see a Rheumatologist in Austin, she finally got an x-ray that showed severe inflammation in nearly every joint of her body. She describes intense flair-ups of pain and a cocktail of medications she use to have to take just to help her manage day-to-day life. “I found myself worrying about all the things that I would have to do to accommodate my body and the pain I was having, like buying a one-story house, where to park my car anytime I went somewhere, how far I would have to walk and even psyching myself out to get up from sitting down,” says Kat. “I just remember thinking, I’m too active to be in this much pain, I’m too young for this.”
As the years went by she continued to manage her condition to the best of her ability. Once she began working at Dell Med she met Associate Provider, Devin Williams and Orthopedic Surgeon, Karl Koenig, M.D., of the Musculoskeletal Institute. “I met Devin and Dr. Koenig because I did their on-boarding here, that’s how I met a majority of our doctors,” she says. “At the time I was a lot heavier and my rheumatoid arthritis doctor recommended I see an orthopedic specialist because my joints were wearing due to my weight, so I decided to go to the clinic here when it opened.”
During her visit at UT Health Austin, Dr. Koenig told her it was important for her to start losing weight to reduce some of the stress on her knee joints. They began delivering injections to relieve some of her pain but she knew that treatment option wasn’t a sustainable one and she wanted to avoid surgery if she could. In September 2017, Kat decided to proceed with bariatric surgery to jump-start her journey toward becoming a healthy weight. Her clinicians here at UT Health Austin encouraged her every step of the way. “I had the surgery in September 2017 and then in September 2018, I hit my goal of losing 70 pounds. I have no pain anymore, I even questioned my doctor about my arthritis diagnosis,” exclaims Kat.
Kat confesses that it was about more than just losing weight for her, it was about changing her lifestyle to become healthier overall. One of her biggest goals was to be able to climb the stairs in her office, she says, “before I could barely get to the second floor without stopping, now I climb them four times a day and I walk nearly five miles. I call Dr. Koenig and he’s so proud!”
She is so grateful for the support and guidance her team at the Musculoskeletal Institute gave her and she feels lucky to be so close to a clinic that meets her healthcare needs. Kat is looking forward to a girls’ trip next year and continues to spread positive energy every day at the Dell Medical School with each person she meets. “I want to enjoy life, there’s too much to do, so that was my motivation. I say, ‘I might have it, but it doesn’t have me.’”