George Hooks: My Arthritic Journey, from the Sofa to Santiago 9 May 2018

My Arthritic Journey        -   From the Sofa to Santiago                  George Hooks - 9 May 2018

A few years ago I was so crippled that I spent most of my time on the sofa - but after following the Margaret Hills regime my health was restored and I walked 799 kilometres (496 miles) of the Camino de Santiago de Compostella in Spain!        

It all began in 2011 with pains in my shoulders and neck which caused me to visit my doctor. He suspected polymyalgia or frozen shoulder, so he put me on Diclofenac, an anti inflammatory drug. He also sent me for acupuncture.

However, my symptoms were getting worse; I had stiffness in my joints, especially first thing in the morning. I had difficulty getting out of bed, and negotiating the stairs was a very slow procedure. Pain in my neck, shoulders, wrists, hands, knees, and feet, with slight deformities and swelling in my hands and feet stopped me from leading an active life. My shoes were too difficult to put on so I wore sandals, summer and winter! I couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes, or walk further than the gate. Use of a wheelchair was necessary at certain times. Also fatigue and some depression set in. Spent most of my time on the sofa, it was difficult to get off it!

My doctor requested that I see a rheumatologist, and as he was aware that I usually avoid pharmaceuticals, he recommended a great little book entitled ‘Treating Arthritis the Drug Free Way’ by Margaret Hills. I read the book, contacted the Clinic, and filled in the questionnaire. Meanwhile I

I spoke to various people who had been on a similar regime and was impressed by their progress. In June 2012 I received my treatment brochure and the first month's supply of supplements. Also around that time, after being on Diclofenac for about a year I was very poorly with stomach pains. Doctor had me hospitalised.

For a week I had many tests and was diagnosed with a bleeding H. Pylori, gastric ulcer and anaemia. My haemoglobin level was 8.1, for men it should be over 14; I was told to stop Diclofenac immediately.

My rheumatoid factor in January 2013 was 181; eventually that year I was seen by a rheumatologist who diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis; she prescribed Methotrexate. I refused; she was not pleased and thereafter adapted quite an abrupt manner. By the way, later another doctor told me that these drugs only mask the symptoms. However, I regularly attended the rheumatology Clinic where I was seen by the occupational therapist and nurse who were both pleasant and helpful.

Included in their treatment was an assortment of aids including a walking stick, a bath seat, bath handle, WC seat extension, helping hand, hand splints, even a sock assist! We had just moved house, and to furnish it we were looking around showrooms where my dear wife Sheila had to push me in a wheelchair.

In July/August 2013 I attended a “Joint Management” course in Kilkenny - where we were taught how to lift everyday items, such as a kettle in a particular way so as to protect our joints. One week they asked each of us how we see ourselves and our arthritis in a year's time. I was so confident in the Margaret Hills Clinic and Christine Horner, ECNP MRNT, in particular, that I said I would be better by then.  A little over optimistic one might say! ...Well, in the summer of 2014, I was redesigning and organising our garden makeover; which involved sourcing materials and transporting them back home. Then later in 2014 I was planning a motorhome trip to southern Spain for the following January where we spent an interesting 10 weeks touring and sightseeing.

I followed the treatment plan which did require some discipline. To give up some of the foods that I loved was a challenge! However, I was focused and I strongly believed in the integrity of Christine Horner who was treating me. Many people thought I was crazy; the nurse at the hospital stressed the damage that was occurring in my joints and which would continue if I didn’t start using their prescribed drug. My doctor actually suggested to my wife that she put the drugs in my food. She didn’t and I was determined to persevere, to give it time; about two years I thought. I was optimistic; I knew that I could feel worse for a while as my body was ridding itself of acids. I had reason to be cheerful because I was also told that when free of symptoms some of the acidic but delicious foods could be reintroduced.


Fast forward to 2018 my joints have if anything recovered; certainly not deteriorated.

I’d say that I’m 80/90% arthritis free*

I no longer need helpful aids

I have boundless energy

I walk regularly, even in the mountains

Virtually pain free, just the odd twinge

I don’t take any painkillers at all

I’ve re-introduced many foods

I don’t take any pharmaceuticals whatsoever

*Yes, perhaps I should be stricter with myself to completely rid my body of arthritis but hey, I have very good health, I enjoy my life, and I’m very active now at 70 years young, having a very happy retirement!

Travel, music festivals, concerts, walking and socializing are some of the things that keep me busy. Sheila calls me her miracle man, friends are amazed, my doctor acknowledges my recovery but the blinkered rheumatologist would not!

Throughout my illness I always thought that if I could get back to hill walking again, I’d consider myself cured. Eventually in the summer of 2016 I achieved that when I walked with a group of people to the top of Slieve Martin in my beloved Mourne mountains after the long, exciting, but tiring weekend of the music festival in Rostrevor, Co.Down.

Not only that but during the last year I walked the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrims’ path, called The French Way, a distance of 799 kilometres (496 miles) from St. Jean Pied de Port in France over the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostella in Spain where I received a certificate for my efforts. And to cap it off I walked to Finisterre just to watch the sunset over the Atlantic ocean. Another 90 kilometres! Yes, it was tough at times but most rewarding; a truly wonderful lifetime experience! 

I still regularly take cider vinegar; eat a lot of fish, chicken, honey, molasses, nuts, seeds, and supplementary nutrition. I intend taking cyder vinegar for the rest of my life as it not only keeps my arthritis at bay but it has many other health benefits. My rheumatoid factor went down to 19 from 181; although more lately it was slightly elevated to 66 which tells me that I must adhere to the plan. Certain foods I still avoid whilst others like red meat, cheese and chocolate; particularly chocolate which I love are only eaten occasionally.

Telling people about my amazing cure is my mission. I always carry a Margaret Hills card in my wallet to give to interested people. I wish to thank Christine for her integrity, her expert knowledge, encouragement and continued support. I have no hesitation in recommending this Clinic.

George Hooks, May 2018