Today, Christine VonGunden feels good, and her life is getting back to normal. But three years ago, when she was just 37 years old, she and her doctors didn’t think she would make it after she experienced a variety of health symptoms.
A single working mom, Christine found it extremely difficult to manage her worsening symptoms while taking care of her three-year old son. While in the hospital in 2012, Christine came close to death. Her body was working against her, and she was frustrated that, even after visiting more than 10 doctors, she still didn’t have the right diagnosis. It wasn’t until Christine was diagnosed with granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA), a rare autoimmune disorder, that she was finally able to seek proper treatment.
According to the American College of Rheumatology, GPA is estimated to affect three out of every 100,000 people. Both men and women are affected by GPA equally. It can occur at any age but usually appears in adults between the ages 40-65.
GPA is a potentially fatal, rare type of vasculitis (blood vessel inflammation) that affects the sinuses, lungs and kidneys. Like 90 percent of people who have GPA, Christine initially had the symptoms of a seemingly common cold. However, her nagging cough and heavy fatigue did not cease, and her initial earache transformed into chronic minor hearing loss.
“I couldn’t hear my son in his car seat, and I knew something was wrong because the ear ache and hearing loss would not go away,” she said.