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When I was 1 ½ years old my mom knew something was wrong with me.  I went from walking and running around in the mornings and after naps to not being able to even stand or straighten my knee when I would wake up. In November 2008, in an attempt to seek answers, my parents took me to my pediatrician, who then referred us to an orthopedic doctor.  The orthopedist tested for cancer, a bone infection and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.  It was a very scary process for my parents. The results came back suggesting arthritis, however, they could not diagnosis me and referred us to a specialist.  During this time there were no juvenile arthritis doctors in the Charlotte area.  The closest juvenile arthritis doctor was in in Chapel Hill at UNC Pediatrics. We waited a long four months to get an appointment, but in March 2009 my parents finally got a diagnosis that I had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA).  At that time, it was called JRA, but now it is referred to as juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), which is arthritis in children that causes chronic joint inflammation in one or more joints and sometimes it can affect your eyes.            

            I was first diagnosed in Chapel Hill with arthritis in my left knee and left elbow.   We traveled to Chapel Hill for follow up appointments from Charlotte every 6, 8 or 12 weeks from 2009 to 2014.   In 2014 we finally started seeing Dr. Thomas Griffin, a pediatric rheumatologist in Charlotte, at Levine’s Specialty Center.  Throughout the years my arthritis has spread to several joints such as my knees, ankles, elbow, knuckles, fingers, and wrists.  

I have been in and out of physical and occupational therapy since kindergarten. Therapy has helped me out a lot with arthritis in my knees and in both of my hands.  I have been taking arthritis medicine since I was 2 years old, and I am 14 (I will be 15 in April), and I still do not like taking medicine at all!  Throughout the years I have taken liquid form, pill form and shots and none of it is fun, but I know it helps me.  I consider arthritis to be an invisible disease.  When friends or adults see me, they think I am fine, but what they don’t know is that I have and manage pain every day in my joints. 

            Although arthritis has been a lifelong battle, I love playing sports, but arthritis does not love all sports! I started playing soccer when I was very young, and I loved it!  Over time my arthritis started to impact my joints especially in my knees, so I had to stop playing soccer, basketball, and gymnastics. At the end of second grade, I started summer league swim at Lake Park to see if it would help my arthritis and I loved it!  I started swimming year-round in sixth grade for Team Charlotte and I just finished my freshman year swimming for Porter Ridge High.  Swimming is a low impact sport, and it has allowed me to still participate in a sport competitively. While swimming has been very beneficial, my arthritis still bothers me at practice and meets, as it affects my hips and knees, but this does not stop me. I have a ton of support from my coaches and teammates.  

            Over the past few years, I have been learning more about my arthritis and how it affects my body.  I want other kids with juvenile arthritis to know they are not alone with what they are going through.  I am so happy to be Charlotte’s Walk to Cure Arthritis Youth Honoree!

Thank you!

 

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