To increase awareness of ankylosing spondylitis, Californian Rob Williams is traveling across the country by bike, stopping at medical schools along the way to deliver a message about the disease. He will be in Macon on Wednesday, Nov. 7, to speak to Mercer University medical students, Mercer/Medical Center of Central Georgia residents, local physicians and other health care workers beginning at 2 p.m. in the Ebersole Auditorium at the Medical Center of Central Georgia.
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS), which affects millions of people worldwide, can cause intense pain and permanent fusing of the spine, leaving the victim in an extremely stooped position.
Williams first began suffering from the disease when he was in high school. One day he was a star athlete — the next day he was in such severe pain that he had to depend on friends to carry him to the bathroom. More than once, the disease overwhelmed him with pain and frustration so great he considered suicide.
With an indomitable spirit, and the help of physicians and medication, Williams has triumphed over ASÉ for now. He knows there is no guarantee about his future and is aware that if his condition worsens, his spine could fuse, rendering him unable to walk.
To call attention to AS, Williams launched Ride Out AS, a 3,500-mile bike ride that began in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 24 and will end in his hometown of Santa Barbara, Calif., on Jan. 11, 2002. He plans to visit medical schools along the route, talking to students and physicians about AS, urging early diagnosis and treatment.