Living with Osteogenesis Imperfecta

By Michael Morrow

My name is Michael Morrow, I’m 37  years  old and I have Osteogenesis Imperfecta. OI is a genetic disorder characterized by fragile bones
that breakeasily. It is also known as “brittle bone disease.” A person is born with this disorder and is affected throughout his or her life time.

I’m sceptical and weary to use any new drug treatments in my life. Avoiding harmful or negative side effects to my body is important. In my life time I’ve fractured and shat- tered so many bones. If I sneeze or cough too hard I can break a rib or two potentially.

My second home as a child was the fracture clinic every other month at Sick Kids Hospital. As a kid I was a dare- devil by trade and that never mixed well with OI. I had three major surgeries as a kid where pins, screws, plates had to be installed to repair my shattered bones. My bones broke easily like glass if I fell too hard basically. I was not

able to participate in physical education at school or do sports. Eventually as a teen, I found swimming and work- ing out with light weights at the local YMCA. This made the bones a little stronger due to the muscle I developed. The muscle growth acted like a splint, surrounded my bones structure to give me some support. That was a relief and great way to help with stress and get fitness also incorporated into my life.

I was on the swim team in high school and very competi- tive. I won many swimming events in freestyle and butter- flystroke races. I also became a lifeguard for many years later as a teenager and found that a very rewarding job.

In my twenties I severely fractured my hips without any major trauma and was unaware initially due to my high pain tolerance. I just kept working for a month and thought I just strained my muscle during working out or something. Things got really bad and I did more damage

than good due to not getting an X-ray sooner. It took me two years to recover from that and later walk again. I became very depressed, addicted and dependent on pain killers. I had a very tough time coming off of the pain killers, due to the duration of my injuries and addictive nature of the medicine. It took me many months to get to a low dose level with my doctors supervision. I knew later I needed to find an alternative and different approach to treat my OI.

I took me almost a decade and research and many doc- tors, specialists to discover medical marijuana. Finally got my doctor to sign all the paper work needed to become legal. I radically reduced the amount of pain medicine I was taking. Now I could medicate safely and effectively without the fear of addiction or awful side effects. All though it was not a cure, it gave me relief safely and the happiness I finally longed for. It sounds funny or cliché but it was a miracle and I’m so thankful to have it in my life.

I’ve been on Ontario Disability Support Program, (ODSP) for the past two years now because of chronic pain with OI. Before going on ODSP, I was chef and lived in Vancouver for many years. I was always passionate about cooking and food in general, so it came to me naturally. Being a chef was a great way for me to be creative and I always enjoyed that. My chef days eventually ended and I was having a tough time walking or standing for any length of time.

The wear and tear of my youth caught up to me. The chronic pain through my entire body and joints was too hard to deal with/ manage. I’ve been fortunate to have had such an amazing journey in life so far. I love life very much and feel blessed, without OI I would never be strong men- tally or share compassion with others. I’ve learned to accept living with OI and not look at it as negative but as

something positive. It’s all about falling down, learning  and never giving up.

My art is my other medicine or outlet for pain relief I use  a lot these days. I have always painted, sketched, or have   a passion for the art world ever since I was a child. My mother was an amazing artist and painting, drawing or crafting were a very common activity at home. I was able to learn a lot from her before she passed away.

I’m inspired and grateful we had the time to create. She was an amazing, caring mother and also had OI. She  passed away when I was 21 to cancer at the age of 40, I went through a very rough period when I lost her. I found painting eventually again and it helped me. Painting keeps my mind distracted from pain or depression and gives me the creative freedom to vent healthy. Even though I’m lim- ited physically at times, painting always keeps my spirit strong and balanced. Without art in my life I truly don’t know what I would do. I have been doing a lot of digital painting/graffiti style pieces these days and enjoy that style of art very much. I would describe my style of painting these days as, “Abstract Tribal Cartoonish”.  I  slowly started selling or donating my art about three years.

My new goal now in life is to promote and display more  of my pieces and have fun with it. I do custom designs, original pieces and never limit my abilities or boundaries.  I will eventually have a new web page in December to showcase and promote more of my compositions. Please follow my art work on facebook or send me an email if your looking for a new personal painting for home or gift for someone you love. I also enjoy meeting new  people and making new friends…Life is too short so have fun and be true, be you. Peace and Love!

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