“The pain meant I was losing so much”

05 February 2020
Marianne in her car and in the gym.
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32-year-old Marianne was diagnosed with early onset osteoarthritis in her knees three years ago. Living in pain had a devastating effect on every part of Marianne’s life.

Then last year, she was given an opportunity to take part in one of our clinical trials called ASCOT, which is exploring different options for treating damaged cartilage. The results of the surgery have been life-changing for Marianne.

It all started with pain in my knees

I was working as a personal trainer and enjoyed keeping myself fit and healthy, both professionally and for personal reasons. But about four years ago, I began to get pain in my knees. I visited the doctor because the pain and clicking in my knee joints wasn’t going away, but at that point I was advised to take painkillers, and to keep on doing the exercise I was doing as long as I was still able to.

Soon after that, my knee completely gave in and I collapsed underneath it. I went to the hospital and it turned out I’d fractured it. That’s when they told me I had early onset osteoarthritis. I was in shock; I didn’t realise you could get it so young.

Arthritis affected everything

Once I was diagnosed, I had lots of physio, acupuncture, ultrasound, I even had tape to move my kneecap into the correct position, but nothing helped for long. I had to give up my job as a personal trainer, as everything involved legs and squatting, which I couldn’t do.

I went back into early year’s teaching which I’d trained for before pursuing my career in fitness, but even that became too difficult. I couldn't crouch down and do activities with the children without being in agony. It was a really horrible time for me.

This time last year I was so low, I was having counselling. It was too painful to drive; I couldn’t go to the gym and I stopped going on nights out with my friends because it hurt to wear heels and I just felt frumpy.

Finding out about the clinical trial was a lifeline

About seven months after my diagnosis, I was told about a trial happening at The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry, where a team of researchers is looking at a cartilage cell transplantation procedure called ACI (autologous chondrocyte implantation).

I was selected to take part and although I had no idea if it would work, I thought, I’ve got nothing to lose! The only other option would have been to have a knee replacement and I was too young for that.

I went to visit the team in Oswestry, they were extremely positive and completely put me at ease. I thought, even if it doesn’t work for me, at least I’m helping with a trial that will potentially help lots of other people.

The procedure went smoothly and just one day after, I was back on my feet again.

My whole outlook has improved

The treatment has made such a difference, not only to what I can do but to my mood and my positivity. Before I was fearful about the future because the pain meant I was losing so much. Now it almost feels as if all that never happened.

A typical day now is so different to how it was when the pain was bad. I actually want to get out of bed now. I get up, have breakfast and head straight to the gym for an hour.

I’ve been following my recovery programme carefully, and after six months I could do pretty much everything I was doing before the pain started. I’m working towards doing the Great North Run later this year so I’m doing lots of work to strengthen my quads and the muscles around my knees.

In the afternoons I go to work, I’m now a care worker in a residential home and school for young people with autism and behavioural difficulties. I absolutely love my job and there’s no way I could have done this before my treatment as it’s very physical. To be honest, the kids don’t let you have a typical day at work but every day I appreciate small things like being able to run around in soft play with them!

The difference this treatment has made to me is incredible. I can’t imagine where I would be without it. It has changed my life and I feel like I am back in control again.

Find out more

Read more about our current research and clinical trials in rheumatoid arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions.

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