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Raphael Sidler, 47, is a native of Sursee, a small town in the heart of Switzerland.

Until 1997, Raphael didn't know the meaning of the word osteoporosis. Yet, unknown to him, osteoporosis was the insidious cause of unexplained fractures and severe back pain dating back to his twenties. At the time no one spoke about 'fractures', not even when, between the ages of twenty and thirty, he regularly experienced a 'snapping' in his back, followed by excruciating pain and weeks of immobility. His doctors simply said to rest, advised him to stop lifting heavy objects, and prescribed large amounts of painkillers.

At age 33 Raphael felt yet another 'snap' in his back and this time, over his doctor's objections, insisted on an MRI. As a result, six vertebral fractures were diagnosed and a subsequent DXA examination confirmed severe osteoporosis. "The diagnosis of osteoporosis was tough, but it was a relief to know the cause of years of suffering," he says.

To date Raphael has suffered eleven spinal fractures as well as fractures of the shin, calve bone and toe (the latter fractures occurring when his dog Flacky jumped up at him or stepped on his toe). Several vertebral fractures were spontaneous, others caused by a minor fall or such simple movements as bending over to tie a shoelace. Now, Raphael receives expert care by a bone specialist. He attends weekly physiotherapy and strictly adheres to his medical therapy which includes regular use of patches for pain management, daily injections as part of his osteoporosis therapy and medication to help prevent calcium loss. He ensures that his diet is rich in calcium and practices a safe regimen of postural exercises. He is careful to avoid 'dangerous' movements, by using an aid to reach for or pick up objects and by wearing shoes that are easy to slip into. Raphael has also had to learn to ask for - and accept - help in doing simple things like reaching up for heavier items in a supermarket or lifting groceries into the trunk of his car.

Osteoporosis has changed Raphael's life completely. The years of uncertainty, constant pain, and damaged self esteem all helped to contribute to depression and a nervous breakdown. The situation put a strain on his marriage, and he and his wife are now separated. He has had to give up many of the things he loves doing. Bike riding became impossibly dangerous as even a minor bump or fall could cause a fracture. He had to give up singing in a choir as it involved standing for long periods of time. His social life gradually became more and more restricted. But the most difficult of all was having to give up his work in the traditional family business of which he is part owner. Selling sewing machines and office equipment involves standing, lifting or bending to install machines. Yet even when feeling relatively well, Raphael must lie down frequently to rest and is physically incapable of working as he used to. Sadly, he notes that "Osteoporosis is a disease of restrictions - it makes many things difficult to do and leads to isolation and a lonely life. Because the disease is not visible and I don't look frail, people often have trouble understanding my inability to take part in daily activities."

Raphael is committed to raising awareness of osteoporosis, in the hope that others will not have to go through the same uncertainty and misunderstanding he has experienced. As a volunteer for OsteoSwiss, the Swiss osteoporosis patient organization, Raphael makes a valuable contribution to society by leading a patient self-help group and sharing his hard won knowledge about the disease.

6 August 1964

Sursee Switzerland



©2013 International Osteoporosis Foundation