Pam Weller
Sarah Brick

Raynaud’s outreach efforts are spanning the globe, as the story Sarah Brick shared tells us. 

The New Zealand resident was living with numbness and pain in her fingers ever since she could remember. “I hated being outside or in a cold building, as my fingers would hurt and lose color and turn white,” she told the Raynaud’s Association. “I would just feel cold all over. I felt like I was inside a freezer.”

Five years ago, she was working as an apple grader at the Apple Pack House in Central Hawke’s Bay on the East Coast, North Island. “The work was fine in the summer months, and when I started to get cold in the winter, I just wrapped myself up really well,” Sarah said. “The work was repetitive, standing still in one position, hour after hour, which made it worse.”

Eventually, though, the pain became too much one day. “I felt cold all over my body and my left arm went totally numb. I thought I had some sort of stroke,” she recalled. When she went into the bathroom, she couldn’t undo her buttons or zip on her clothing.

She made an appointment with her doctor, who diagnosed Raynaud’s—but told her she needed to work in a warm environment. “He told me I needed to live on a tropical island!” she said. But island life wasn’t an option for her, living in a farming town with a mountain range, nearby.

Once her medical issues had a name, Sarah set out on an internet search to learn more. A registered nurse at the New Zealand Arthritis Association told her about the disorder, and referred her to the Raynaud’s Association. “That gave me hope, that there were others out there that had the same condition,” she said.

“The Raynaud’s Association’s website is packed full of useful information,” she said. “I now have a better understanding of what Raynaud’s is and how to cope with it.” She has learned how to guard against painful and frequent episodes. Here are some of her tips:

  • Keep warm with good quality clothing including woolen jerseys, socks, hats, gloves and long john pants in the winter. Wear them inside the house for a short time before stepping outside. The Marketplace section of the Raynaud’s Association’s website and its blog have great product suggestions and reviews.
  • Exercise regularly. A good walk keeps the blood circulating around the body, which helps keep you warm.
  • Keep busy with activities such as sewing, reading and baking to keep your mind and body occupied.
  • Drink warm liquids before and after being out in the cold.
  • Keep your hands moisturized. The Raynaud’s Association’s website has some good product suggestions here too.
  • Consider watching winter sports from the comfort of your home, on TV, instead of in the stands.

Winters are now more bearable for Sarah. She didn’t relocate to a tropical island, but she did change her job. She’s now a caregiver in a much warmer environment. “I’m moving around more, helping those in the community who really need care,” she said. And she’s keeping in touch with fellow Frosties she’s found online. “That’s very therapeutic too,” she concludes.

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