Famous Ones Who Had/Have 

      Ankylosing Spondylitis

 

 

Rico Brogna- An American professional baseball player who played with

the Detroit Tigers, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox and

Atlanta Braves from 1992-2001. He was diagnosed with AS in 1991. Brogna

later became the national spokesperson for the Spondylitis Association of

America. He retired as a baseball player in July 2001, and went on to coach

a variety of teams.

 

 

Franklin Gutierrez- A Venezuelan-born Professional baseball outfielder

who played in major league baseball for the Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners,

and Los Angelas Dodgers from 2000-2017. In 2014 he had to miss the entire

season because of symptoms from his Ankylosing Spondylitis and IBS combined.

This also caused him to end the 2017 season early. In 2008 and 2009 Gutierrez

won the “Fielding Bible Award” as the top fielding right fielder and top fielding

center fielder in the entire MLB (major league baseball). In 2010 he was awarded

his first Gold Glove for outfielder.

 

Tanya Harrison- A planetary scientist, on the science team of the Mars

Opportunity rover. Her research is in martian geomorphology and terrestrial

analogues, spectroscopy and glaciology. After receiving a NASA scholarship,

she was on the science operation team for NASA's Mars Reconnaissance

Orbiter. She also worked for the Mars Color Imager, the Mast Cameras and

Mars Hand Lens Image. She was selected for Planet’s Science Ambassadors

program. She regularly tweets about living with AS. Her symptoms came to a

head by grade 7. It was The Children’s Hospital in Seattle that gave her the initial

diagnosis of “undifferentiated spondyloarthropy”. She is quoted as saying “some

days are better than others...but my love for Mars and space really keeps me

going – because getting to play with robots on another planet is too cool to let

something like AS stop me!”

 

 

Mick Mars- Lead guitarist for Motley Crue, an American heavy metal band

from 1980-2015. He was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis when he was

17 years old, and struggled with the condition for the remaining of his life. He

is quoted as saying: “I have days that are worse than others, and there is always

some amount of pain with my hips. There are good days and bad days.” It

increasingly restricted his movement over the years and led to hip replacement

surgery in 2004. He also suffered on and off with eye pain associated with “iritis”,

a complication of Ankylosing Spondylitis. He went through a period where he

became addicted to pain medications and had to get help. Later, when asked by

Rolling Stones if he would ever take them again, he mentioned that he does not

take any pain killers any more. He said he went through that route before and it

is “a big no-no”.  He said “I don’t ever want to go there again.” His lower spine is

fused solid and he is in a bent position, which has caused him to loose 3 inches

in height. However, looking on the positive side, Mick said it was kind of a cool

side effect because now “I can always see my guitar!” His neck is also fused and

he cannot turn it. He had to make the decision to step away from music a couple

of times, but he always returned as soon as possible. In 2011 Mick says “It still

hurts….but music is my whole passion. It’s what I do. It’s what I live for. I guess it

keeps me alive. I’m just happy to be here, to be able to make people happy, to

make people smile and give them what I feel inside from my music.” In 2015 Mick Mars finally retired after a long career, realizing that touring was just too difficult to do any more with his condition. Over all, Mick Mars has shown a resilience through his diagnosis of AS and a positive attitude, a common feature of all the individuals mentioned on this page.

 

 

Dan Reynolds- An American singer, songwriter and record producer. He

is the lead vocalist for “Imagine Dragons”, an American pop rock band. Their

debut album, released in 2012 was a huge success. The single on the album

“Radioactive” set an all-time record for the longest reign at the top of the

Billboard Rock Songs chart with 23 consecutive weeks and the all-time record

for the longest run on the Billboard Hot 100 with 87 weeks. Rolling Stone

called it “the biggest rock hit of the year”, and it is the best-selling rock song

in digital history. They won the “World Music Award” for World’s Best Rock Act

and a “Billboard Music Award” for Top Rock Artist. The band’s success

continued to skyrocket after that with “Thunder” and “Believer”, and continues

until present. In 2014 he was the winner of the Hal David Starlight Award, given

to gifted songwriters who make a significant impact in the music industry with

their original songs. It was in his early twenties when he first felt the onset of

severe pain. He was out on a run with his wife when the pain hit him in his

lower back. It continued to grow over time until he would wake up in the middle

of the night crying from excruciating pain. Then in the morning, he was so stiff

that he could barely move. At the same time, Imagine Dragons was really starting

to take off and become popular. He thought this might end his career. He would

hobble on stage and had to stand perfectly still while performing. He had 4 other

brothers with AS, and they encouraged him to get help. Still, it took him several

doctors before a Rheumatologist finally diagnosed him at the age of 24. He had

already been diagnosed at the age of 21 with Ulcerative Colitis. He preferred to

treat his illnesses without drugs. He said that pain medications are known to

ruin your vocal cords, and he found that when he tried immunosuppressants,

they made him have infections all the time. So instead, he implemented a new

fitness plan and started following a strict diet. He cut out all breads, dairy, sugars

and processed foods, greatly reducing his starches and carbs. He does this despite

the fact that it isn’t easy while on the road. It’s so much easier to just grab fast

food, but he knows he will pay the price if he does that, and recovering from the

after-effects will not be so easy. Rather, he makes diet a priority. He found this diet

lowered his inflammation significantly and, when combined with his intense

exercise program, has allowed him to manage his conditions and remain almost

pain free. He only uses medications temporarily when he has a flare. It was in 2015

when Dan Reynolds officially announced during his tour that he suffers from

Ankylosing Spondylitis. In order to raise awareness about this severe disease, he

partnerred with Novartis, a pharmaceutical company, to create “This AS Life”, a

website which interviews other people who have AS. The website has gone live,

and is also an interactive talk show. The ultimate goal is to increase awareness of

Ankylosing Spondylitis and to let those who already suffer with the condition know

that they are not alone.

 

 

Mac Reynolds- The Manager and Lawyer for Imagine Dragons, and brother to

Dan Reynolds, the lead vocalist. After running with a bag full of books to try to

catch a bus, his foot started hurting really badly. The pain continued to get worse

and worse. He saw doctors but they did not make the connection to Ankylosing

Spondylitis and just told him to get a shoe insert. The pain became so bad he

could not walk or roll over in bed at night. He finally was referred to a

Rheumatologist who did bloodwork and finally gave him a diagnosis of AS. His

reaction was mixed. He felt relieved to finally have his condition nailed down, but

at the same time, at only 22 years old you don’t want to be told you have a lifelong

disease. He was the first one in his family to receive the diagnosis of AS. While

working as the manager, when on the road, it’s really, really tough. While in the

office, he uses a standup desk. He can raise the desk and stand when he needs to,

and he can lower it and sit down. He also tries to pay attention to his posture and

make sure he is not slumping.

 

Charis Hill- An American model. She was diagnosed with AS at the age of

26 in 2013, but her symptoms really began back in 2000. At that time, it was

falsely believed that AS was a “man’s disease.” So her symptoms were blamed

on sports injuries. She always was athletic, participating in sports from youth

on. She played soccer, engaged in marathons and even was a professional

mover for a time. She had just began modeling when she got her diagnosis.

Her first reaction was that she hated her body for betraying her. Being an

athlete was her whole identity up until that point. Now she didn’t know who

she was, because she could not continue in sports. To her surprise, she found

that being in front of the camera and on the runway helped her rebuild self

esteem. She could be anyone she wanted. She also found many other models,

designers, photographers, hair and makeup artists who also suffered from

chronic disease. Charis once commented that we see these polished images

in magazines and on runways of models that appear to be perfect and healthy

with happy lives, fed to us by an industry with a very narrow view of beauty.

Charis has made it one of her goals to speak out about having AS. In fact, she said “my mission in life is to make Ankylosing Spondylitis a household name.” True to her mission, she has spoken up on interviews and at rallies, she blogs regularly about AS,  and she even gave a Ted Talk, speaking about what it is like living with AS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lxc2peaGkig

Ed Sullivan- An American TV personality, sports and entertainment reporter.

He was a broadcast pioneer during the infancy of television. But he is primarily

remembered as the creator and host of the television variety show “The Toast

of the Town”, later renamed “The Ed Sullivan Show”. This show hosted some of

the finest music and comedy acts seen on television. He spotted exceptional new

talent and debuted some of the greatest rock and roll bands of the 1960’s,

including The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Who, The Beatles and even Elvis

Presley and The Jackson Five. 40% of the U.S. population viewed his show. Sullivan

shuffled stiffly across the stage, often with his arms folded, and turned his entire

body in order to look sideways. Comedians often poked fun at his “wooden” style.

Some viewers thought that his mannerisms on tv were so odd that he must suffer

from Bells Palsy. What they didn’t know is that he suffered from Ankylosing

Spondylitis. Treatment choices for AS at the time of Ed Sullivan were very few. The

most commonly prescribed medication was Phenylbutazone, also known as “bute”,

which was originally prescribed for horses. This drug was a NSAID, and known to

cause ulcers and other health problems with long-term use. Later the FDA banned

its use. This may be why Ed Sullivan had a long battle with ulcers (stomach). He

eventually died of esophageal cancer at the age of 73.

 

 

In addition to the above, there are other international musicians, writers, political figures, comedians, professional golfers, etc, who had AS. But for now, let’s go a little bit further back in time to see some other famous individuals with Ankylosing Spondylitis, and then we shall go waaay, waaay back in time to see a truly unusual creature.

 

 

? Egyptian Pharoahs- Among the pharoahs of the 18th and 19th dynasty,

at least three were said to have Ankylosing Spondylitis: Amenhotep II, Ramses II

(“The Great”), and his son Merenptah, based on radiological review of the

mummies that were discovered. In 2014, the remains were reexamined by

Sahar Saleem, an Egyptologist. It is the opinion of Saleem that the pharoahs had

“difuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH)”, rather than AS. DISH can appear to

be similar to Ankylosing Spondylitis, so it is not known for sure.  Saleem's findings

were published in a book called "Scanning the Pharoahs".

 

 

Ankylosaurus- From the genus “armored dinosaur”, dating to the end of the Cretaceous Period about 66-68 million years ago. The genus name means, basically, “fused lizard”. It was between 20-26 feet long and weighed between 4-8 tons. It was covered in armor plates and had a large club on the end of its tail. The bones in its skull and other parts of its body were fused, which actually increased the overall strength of the dinosaur. The neural spines of the neck had tendons which were ossified (turned to bone). The last 4 lumbar vertebrae were fused to the ribs. Studies of specimens of different ages indicate that fusion and ossification happened gradually during the animal’s lifetime, starting from the neck and proceeding down the rest of the body. It lived alongside other such dinosaurs as the T-Rex, Triceratops, and Edmontosaurus. The unique body armor of the Ankylosaurus gave it a protective covering that was both lightweight and highly durable, resistant to breakage and penetration by the teeth of predators.  The fusing and ossification made them more powerful and gave them strength.  In their case, their fusing was indeed a blessing, as it meant their very survival. I guess you could say the Ankylosaurus was proud of his ankylosis.  He was not a creature to be trifled with!