Introduction by John Madden
Many of you will have heard of ‘brittle bones’ or osteoporosis, however, many may not have heard of Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI). While the two are similar, in that, they can result in easily fractured and broken bones, OI is present from before birth. It affects approx. one in every 15,000 people and isn’t too easily treated. We caught up with Brendan O’Doherty from Dunmore in County Galway to talk about life with OI and how it doesn’t stop him living life to the fullest.
Brendan has had over 40 breaks in 15 years, “Sometimes it could be the simplest thing; a trip, stumble or fall. Often times they could be fractures too and the thing with fractures is you could have one and not realise it. I might feel a bit of pain in the legs or arms but I wouldn’t always know how damaged it was. With fractures, there’s always a danger of the bone not repairing itself properly. I’m kinda used to it now. I don’t always need to go to the hospital when I get injured, it’s happened so often at this stage that I know what to do; it might just be a case of wrapping it up into a sling.” Brendan then informed me that he has written his own piece on living with OI, so rather than reading my words; the following is Brendan’s own account of life with OI. He wrote this when he was 12. I might need to look for a different job.
Brendan’s story, in his own words.
‘My name is Brendan Doherty. I was born in Manchester, England in 2002 and the outlook was not good. I was diagnosed with a condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, type 3. I was born with multiple fractures to my limbs, chest and ribs. My parents were told that I would not live for very long because of the severity of my condition, so they decided to bring me home to Ireland. There is no cure but at the age of six weeks, I had my first dose of treatment to strengthen my bones. It is put in by drip every 12 weeks for 2 days. It was for 3 days when I was younger. As the years went on, I had [multiple] fractures and had lots of surgeries. I would shuffle around on my bum. I got metal rods inserted in both my lower legs to help straighten and strengthen them and within a few weeks, I was up and around and oh boy, did I put pressure on my parents. Their work was cut out for them, running around after me, making sure I wouldn’t get hurt but from time to time I still would. You could wrap me in cotton wool and I would still get hurt, it’s part of me. I started school when I was 5 years old and there was a special needs assistant assigned to me. The two schools I have been in were adapted to fit my needs. I was lucky to have a good health care team. When my legs were completed with the metal rods, I didn’t fracture as much but my arms would very often, so I’ve got rods inserted in both upper arms and waiting to have surgery on the lower parts. I am 12 years old and have had 25 breaks to my bones, out from my operations and my birth. I am in fifth class. My teacher’s name is Mr Kennedy and is a great teacher. I cannot participate in PE with my class but I do other things with my friends who all watch out for me and understand what’s up with me. I love to swim and go when I can. I got some awards for swimming. I like it. I have one sister called Bridget. She watches out for me all of the time. I like going up town with her and doing things with her. My mom’s name is Ann, my dad’s name is Kevin and they are very protective of me. If they see me rushing around, they’ll say “slow down Brendan.” They never take their eyes off me unless Bridget is with me or if I’m at school but I know that it is only for my own good. I have met a few people with the same condition as me over the years, some not as bad and some as bad as me. I’ve enjoyed talking to other people, sharing each other’s stories.’
Meeting Brendan and his family was a great privilege, and seeing them together reinforces the fact that through care, love and nurturing, you can overcome anything. Even though OI affects one in 15,000 people, Brendan O’Doherty is one in a million!