ARTHRITIS NO MATCH FOR BATHURST-BOUND PEARSON
Heading into the 2008 WPS Bathurst 12 Hour with two fresh new hips, 61 year old Bob Pearson could be the poster boy for Arthritis Australia -- coincidentally the official charity of the 2008 WPS Bathurst Motor Festival.
Diagnosed a few years ago with arthritis, the long-time motor racing competitor from Lagarno, Sydney, has had both of his hips replaced in the past year to ensure he can keep competing in the sport he loves at a national level -- including the WPS Bathurst 12 hour -- even competing in the 2007 running of the event between hip operations.
Arthritis affects close to 20 percent of the Australian population both young and old, with one in five diagnosed with that figure rising to one in two when you look at the over 55 age group. Pearson was in danger of becoming one of the many who are stopped from enjoying chosen hobbies by the illness, however by seeking treatment he has ensured this is not the case.
"I didn't know what Arthritis was before I was diagnosed, except that I had a whole lot of pain," said Pearson.
"I guess you could explain it as a wearing of the joints -- you lose all the 'suspension' in your bones and the result is a world of pain and if I hadn't had it addressed I wouldn't be able to still be competing like I do.
"Now, I guess you could say I've been bionic-ed -- I have had two new hips this year to help the problem which wasn't assisted by years of pounding the pavements and plenty of crashes since I started out racing in 1965 in a Volkswagen.
"Replacement joints are a lot better these days than what they were originally, it is like having a fresh start and certainly hasn't held me back in any way at all -- if anything I am better than before and anyone that is experiencing symptoms should get on with it and get themselves looked at -- if you don't you could end up watching from the sidelines."
Pearson's WPS Bathurst 12 hour co-driver, close friend and medical advisor Doctor Anton Mechtler said that Pearson is a classic example of the fact that even those with significant arthritis can overcome the illness to continue to succeed at high levels in chosen interests as well as in general life.
"Bob competes at a national level in motor racing -- an extremely physical sport which puts continuous and large pressure on the knees and hips in any normal event let alone 12 hour endurance events," said Dr Mechtler.
"Like so many people dealing with the illness, Bob experienced pain and stiffness and when we x-rayed him we found his hip joints had completely worn away and needed to be replaced -- we now sometimes joke that his car has six ball joints -- four in the car and two in him!
"He has taken the right step in seeking treatment and not just believing it couldn't be fixed -- although it is true there is no cure, treatment is available and does work, as is so strongly shown in Bob's case."
Pearson and Dr Mechtler will be joined by a third driver aboard Pearson's Pro-Duct Motorsport entered Mitsubishi Evo VIII 4WD come February's second running of the revived endurance event.
Organisers of the WPS Bathurst Motor Festival recently announced Arthritis Australia would continue as the Festival's official charity for the 2008 event. The peak arthritis organisation in Australia, the body is supported by affiliate offices in every state and territory.
With nearly one in five Australians now suffering from a form of arthritis the condition directly affects more than 18.5 percent of the population and can indirectly affect their businesses, colleagues, friends and family.
Arthritis is the major cause of disability and chronic pain in Australia, with 3.85 million Australians affected at a cost to our economy of more than $23.9 billion each year in medical care and indirect costs such as loss of earnings and lost production. Emotionally and socially, the hidden costs of arthritis are immeasurable.
There is a widely held belief that arthritis is simply a consequence of age, the pain of growing old. But it is not a natural part of ageing. In fact 62 percent of all people living with the disease are of working age and it can also occur within children.
The 2008 WPS Bathurst Motor Festival will be held at Mount Panorama on February 8-10, incorporating the WPS Bathurst 12 Hour on Sunday February 10.