Woman Finds Care She Needs for Rare Connective Tissue Disease

Paula Procell opted to include complementary and alternative medicine in her care

Paula Procell takes life by the saddle. Despite living with the rare, connective tissue disease polymyositis, she hasn’t let her illness stop her from riding her Arabian horse Bella.


Polymyositis, an inflammation and weakness of the skeletal muscles, varies from patient to patient, and no one treatment works. If the immune system is compromised, patients often suffer from flare-ups, making it difficult to sit up, walk or breathe.


Like others living with the disease, Paula has had her share of doctors caring for her. So when she suffered a flare-up in 2008 that was so painful she could barely get out of bed, a friend recommended she meet with Ken Pischel, MD, head of the division of rheumatology at Scripps Clinic.


“I feared that I might not be able to ride again, but I was determined to get better,” Paula says. “And to get better, it was important that I find a doctor who not only treated me but would listen and work with me.”

Incorporating complementary and alternative medicine

Paula remembers being carried into the Scripps Clinic by her husband to meet with Dr. Pischel, who sat right beside her and listened to her concerns. Together, the two developed a care plan that involved both complementary and alternative medicine.


Today, Paula is back to her passion — horseback riding with her husband, tagged along by their two dogs. She credits her physician’s diligence in getting her back on her feet and her horse, Bella.


“Unlike the many doctors I visited over the years for my conditions, I felt completely comfortable with Dr. Pischel,” Paula says. “Although there is no cure for my condition, he has worked with me to manage my pain every step of the way. And for this, I’m extremely grateful.”