By Michelle Tollefsen
It all started 3 1/2 years ago, when our 2 year old daughter, Madison, was waking up every morning with pain. She would cry when she would get out of bed, telling us her feet hurt. My husband and I passed it off as growing pains, and thought she would outgrow it.
Unfortunately, months later she was still complaining of pain. The worst times were in the morning and then in the afternoon after she had been active all day long. It was now time to go to our family doctor to find out what was going on.
We visited our family doctor and he also had concerns with Madison’s stiffness and pain when she walked. We were referred to many specialists, including neurologists and rheumatologists. They all gave her different activities to do and ordered labs.
Finally, we had a diagnosis…Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA).
Wait, are you telling me my now 3 year old daughter has arthritis? I thought that was only for older people?
The signs and symptoms were all there: stiffness, swelling, warmth and pain. Madison has very little range of motion in her feet and ankles, and swelling in her right knee. The symptoms of JRA change from day to day, and they are different for each child. There are days when Madison wakes up in the morning with pain and then there are good days with very little or no pain. She takes pain medicine two times a day to control her pain. And most recently, a weekly injection to prevent deterioration of her bones and joints.
Unfortunately, Madison will never outgrow arthritis but we can control the pain. She can do all the activities she loves. Her favorites are dancing, going on walks, swimming, fishing, camping and going bear hunting with her dad.
Throughout the year Madison has her check-ups every six months at UW Children’s Hospital with her rheumatologist and also a pediatric ophthalmologist, because her eyes may be affected by the inflammation of the arthritis.
We are not the most knowledgeable parents on the subject of JRA, but we are learning ways to control her pain and ours as she goes through many procedures on her lifelong journey. We support the Arthritis Foundation by participating in the annual Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bell Run/Walk.
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