How to Help Those With PC
Family and friends make a difference for those with PC and small accommodations matter.
Understanding PC Pain
Most individuals with PC have chronic pain by the time they reach 10 or 12 years of age. However, that pain can vary even from day to day or hour to hour. One day a child may be able to run and play; the next day, they can't walk at all. An adult may be able to do normal tasks or work in the morning, but be unable even to stand in the afternoon. This can be very difficult for parents, friends and teachers to understand. We have observed that most PC patients will do everything they can and will not use PC to avoid an activity (a chore, shopping, physical fitness class, work assignment, etc.). Here are suggestions of things we have seen successful helpers do:
- Make it acceptable for the individual to express their pain and their limits. It isn't necessary to always be asking about the pain (it is there), but work out a way that the person can clearly say "I can't" and be accepted by parents, teachers, friends. Openly talk about and script how the person with PC will let others know what they need in regard to pain or activity.
- Sometimes a person with PC will want to enjoy an activity so much they will 'pay the price later' and it is okay to accept their choice.
- Small accommodations can be very helpful. Sometimes the person with PC won't ask or know to ask, but an observant and caring friend can identify simple things that matter. We have seen patients use a wheeled office chair to navigate the kitchen, knee pads for crawling at home, an adaptation to pull a wheelchair behind a bike for teenage trips to the mall, a stool and extra chair in the workplace.
Self Esteem and Social Confidence
One of the challenges of an ultra rare disorder like PC is the feeling of isolation, of being different than anyone else. Family and friends can help a lot in building a solid sense of self worth. Also, meeting other successful individuals who also have PC is important. One of the goals of PC Project is to connect patients. The patient registry is a key place to both further research and connect, and is one of the best ways to help those with PC.
One lovely, young woman used to describe herself as 'a mutant' and laugh. That sense of 'who you are' is serious. The most challenging times seem to be from ages 6 to 14. This is when others are most cruel and children are most vulnerable. Children may not talk about the things they are experiencing. At one Patient Support Meeting, a beautiful 12-year old shared that she was made fun of at school all the time; her parents had no idea this was happening.
By teen years, most know who real friends are and have built in some type of defense to protect their self image. But even adults can be fragile and need encouragement from friends and family. Most people with PC constantly have strangers explaining how to "clear up fungus on nails" or asking about their 'acne'.
One man shared his experience when as an adult he had to remove his shoes/socks at a scout activity and the shock of those around him who had been friends for years, but never seen his feet. It had an impact on him even as an adult.
Possible actions family and friends may take to help children with PC
Each person is different and parents find the best way to help the individual. These are some general observations we've gleaned from children and adults about how their parents have helped them with PC.
- When children are young, be pro-active with school administrators, teachers and students to tell the PC story to create a positive social climate. When people understand the genetic basis of PC they can more quickly relate with the person and not only with the effects of the mutation.
- Anticipate in advance situations which may be upsetting to someone with PC if they are unprepared. This might be a swimming activity or a dance class where students remove their shoes/socks. Preparing in advance, working out alternate options or what to do in such situations can be very important.
- Be pro-active in creating positive opportunities for friends and interests. Know that there will be teasing and allow time to talk about handling these painful incidents.
- With older children and teens, help them be pro-active with school administrators, teachers and students to tell their PC story.
- Allow your child to set what they can/cannot do on any given day/time. Accept that PC pain varies from day-to-day, season to season and trust that your child with PC will do all they can before asking for help or quitting.
- Never limit a child, but also never encourage a child to 'be strong' or 'just be tough' and beat the PC pain odds. Age, weight and size (as well as the specific gene and mutation) make a great difference in pain level. What a 7- or 8-year-old with PC can do will not be the same as what a full grown 15-year-old with PC can do.
- Explore and enjoy childhood interests (ballet, basketball, cross-country, etc.) and also look for and encourage those interests that are 'off-the-feet' type activities (swimming, biking, chess, body building) which may become important alternatives as your child grows larger in stature.
- Emphasize planning and preparing for a career that will spare their feet. Education is important, school is important -- especially for those with PC so that they have many options in the future.
- Avoid extensive efforts to 'fix' the problem (i.e. there is something wrong with the child). Going from doctor to doctor, or being seen at 'grand rounds' by numerous doctors can have a long-lasting negative impact and brings no real benefit to your child.
- Rely on quality research articles (many available on this site) and other validated sources to understand the basics of PC and PC care.
- Respect privacy and don't publicly post on social media pictures or information that may later embarrass.
- Rely on PC Project and privately involve the PC community when a child needs special assistance, accommodations or help.