10 September 2012

Systemic Juvenile Arthritis affects children


As a sudden bright red rash spread across his chest and arm accompanied by a high fever, 11 year old Andrew was rushed to the GP as his parents feared he had the Meningococcal infection. Andrew and his parents visited numerous GPs attempting to pinpoint the cause of his symptoms. Although Andrew was experiencing muscles and joints pain, his family attributed it to growing pains. It wasn’t until a Paediatrician referred Andrew to a Rheumatologist, when everything became clear. Andrew was diagnosed with Systemic Juvenile Arthritis.
A young boy who loved nothing more than to be involved in competitive sport, Andrew struggled for the next 6 years with sport, in particular football, being stripped from his life. He found fatigue from the disease taxing, and the naivety of the general public about children getting arthritis also frustrating.
At 13 years of age Andrew attended Camp Freedom, a camp organised by Arthritis & Osteoporosis WA to provide barrier free outdoor experiences for children with JIA. “It was great to be in touch with other kids who shared the same struggles as I did,” he explained.
Now aged 21, Andrew is currently in drug-induced remission, living with residual damage and minor pain in his wrist and shoulders. He injects a biologic drug every 48 hours. If he misses an injection, without fail he will experience a sore throat, headaches, fever, mood swings and sore joints.
For the first time in 10 years Andrew can finally be active again. In 2012, Andrew has participated in both the HBF Run for a Reason and the Chevron City to Surf, graciously raising much needed funds for Arthritis & Osteoporosis WA. Taking advantage of his new physical capabilities, Andrew has a fun adventure planned for the end of the year. He will be travelling to Canada, Mexico and the US for 2 months, where he will spend time snowboarding, snorkelling and exploring. However, travelling can be a challenge when you are on biologic medicine.  Requiring approximately 30 injections over the 2 months, Andrew will need to not only travel with 30 needles but also ensure his medication is kept cold throughout his journey. Ironically however, he explains “they are more suspicious [at airports] about the ice that I carry rather than the needles.”
Andrew is currently in his final year of Civil Mining Engineering, once he is graduated he hopes to also share his insights with children currently living with JIA by becoming a leader at Camp Freedom. We look forward to seeing him around more often.

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