When Ms Wong came down with Sars in March, she thought that was the worst of it. But after winning her month-long struggle for survival, the public hospital nurse realised the worst was yet to come. Although the mother of three has recovered from pneumonia caused by Sars, her hip bones are quickly 'dying', taking away her strength to walk - or even stand. The high doses of steroids she took during her Sars infection are believed to have caused the rare disease avascular necrosis (AVN). 'I have pain everywhere in my legs and hip when I walk. I may need a hip replacement and, 10 or 15 years later, I may become wheelchair-bound,' said Ms Wong (not her real name), who contracted Sars while working at a public hospital. What the nurse is experiencing is not an isolated case. The exact number of AVN patients will not be known until a Hospital Authority magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) screening programme is complete. However, the authority estimates that about 100 patients recovering from Sars now face bone degeneration. Ms Wong said she did not blame the doctors for putting her on steroids. 'At the time, there was no alternative. Doctors had no knowledge about how to treat Sars,' she said. Ms Wong was admitted to hospital for a month for Sars, including eight days in intensive care. Since May, she had repeatedly complained to her doctor about leg pain. 'The doctor was rather indifferent to my problem and just gave me painkillers,' she said. It was not until Ms Wong met other Sars patients in August that she learned about AVN. 'Many patients at the meeting complained of the same bone problems and some were diagnosed with AVN. 'My nursing friends at other hospitals booked an MRI scan at that time, but the hospital where I worked did nothing to help me. Some diagnosed with AVN got sick leave, but I was told to continue to work.' Ms Wong said that after a 'strong request' to her doctor, she was finally given an MRI scan and diagnosed with AVN. The test showed she had lost more than 20 per cent of her hip-bone function. Her knees will be scanned later this week. The nurse criticised the Hospital Authority for not taking care of patients like her. 'I am so angry, why there is no standard policy to help all the Sars patients? I have complained about the bone problems for three months and have received no treatment at all,' she said. Yvonne, a Sars victim who was treated at Queen Mary Hospital for 21 days in mid-March, said she started to suffer from bone pain in June - two months after she was discharged from hospital. The 30-year-old said she complained to the hospital about the possible side effects of steroids when she heard about AVN, but was only X-rayed last month. She had to wait another 11/2 months before receiving an MRI scan last week. She is still waiting for the results. Yvonne said that earlier X-rays revealed abnormalities in her lower limbs. She accused the Hospital Authority of failing to take care of Sars patients properly, even though it was aware of the possible side effects of the steroids. 'The pain is from inside [the bone] and it hurts so much, I cannot help crying in the middle of the night,' said Yvonne, who has been given only ordinary painkillers. 'I cannot work properly or climb stairs,' she said.