Terry Phegan lives with inclusion-body myositis

HEALTH CHALLENGES: Wagga man Terry Phegan, pictured with Canberra-based chiropractor David Comyns, is dealing with rare medical condition. Picture: Les Smith
HEALTH CHALLENGES: Wagga man Terry Phegan, pictured with Canberra-based chiropractor David Comyns, is dealing with rare medical condition. Picture: Les Smith

When Terry Phegan first began to have falls, he put it down to old age.

The Wagga man had recently undergone surgery to replace his heart valve.

“When I got home, I was in so much pain I couldn’t lie down, and it turned out my right lung had collapsed and I had pneumonia,” Mr Phegan said.

“I regard that as the infection that started me on this downward path.

“When I got out of hospital, out of ICU, I started to fall over occasionally, and – I was 60-odd at the time – I thought ‘oh, you hear of old people falling over, it must be my turn’.”

Mr Phegan thought it was just part of getting older, until the falls started to become more serious.

"I’ve had about 50 falls,” he said.

Mr Phegan has inclusion-body myositis, a relatively rare inflammatory muscle disease that primarily affects the arms and legs, but his diagnosis did not come immediately.

Initially, he was diagnosed with polymyositis, a type of chronic inflammation of the muscles, and put on what he describes as “very heavy medication”.

But further testing revealed the condition was in fact inclusion-body myositis, a condition that affects more men than women and occurred mainly in those older than 50.

The cause of inclusion-body myositis has not been conclusively established and there is currently no cure. Medication can be prescribed to deal with the symptoms.

The condition caused Mr Phegan a great deal of pain and fatigue and the levels in his blood of a protein called creatine kinase were well above what was considered normal.

In an effort to lessen the impact of the condition, Mr Phegan has explored medical options.

He travelled to Kowloon to see a doctor who was recommended to him, but his fatigue was so severe, he could not return on a monthly basis, as was recommended.

“I fell over on the plane on the way over, and I fell over at the Hong Kong airport,” he said.

“I spent a week with him, he did all sorts of things to me: Acupuncture and cupping, made a brew for me to drink.

“He wanted me to come back every month. There was no way I could do it, I was like a bit of rag.”

Canberra-based chiropractor David Comyns was recommended to Mr Phegan by an acquaintance.

Mr Comyns said he had a number of clients who are dealing with chronic conditions.

Since working with Mr Comyns, Mr Phegan said he has been able to reduce the amount of medication he takes and struggles less with fatigue.