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2009 Arthritis Walk Phoenix Zoo May 2nd

2009 Arthritis Foundation Phoenix Zoo

On Saturday, May 2nd, hundreds of people will gather together to show their support of the Arthritis Foundation by completing a 1.1 walk through the Phoenix Zoo here in Arizona. There is no entry fee, although donations are welcomed and includes free access to the zoo after the walk.

My family and I have participated in this event for the last three or four years. Why? Because our 10 year old son, Joshua, was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) five years ago. He was just entering kindergarten when we were given the diagnosis. It has been a life changing event for our whole family, but Joshua has remained determined not to let arthritis get the best of him.

Before I share his story, if you live in Phoenix and would like to get involved, please join our Team Schwab (if you’re a Schwabbie – remember Schwab’s gift matching program) or feel free to make a donation in any denomination to Joshua’s Donation page. Or create your own team!

We are ever so grateful that his case has not been as severe as it could have been. There are children confined to wheel chairs and beds because of arthritis. Yes, Kids Get Arthritis Too. This is a little known fact rarely discussed about. More people need to be educated, especially schools and cures need to be developed. The Arthritis Foundation uses donated funds to do this and so much more.

A question I’m often asked is how did we find out he had arthritis. Well, it’s not easy. We were actually out of town at an airshow when we noticed his right knee was very swollen. He had a very difficult time walking so my husband and I spent the better part of the day carrying him around. When we returned to the hotel that night we put an ice pack on his knee trying to get the swelling down. He could walk on it and didn’t complain of any pain, he would just say it ached and he needed to rest.

When we returned to town, I took him to his pediatrician who referred us to a orthopedist who told me I was an overprotective mom and he just had the “flu” in his knee. Needless to say, being the “overprotective mom” that I am, that didn’t sit well with me and I asked for a second referral, after I suggested that not refer anyone back to that orthopedist.

The second orthopedist was wonderful and after just a few minutes of examination, said he thought Joshua might have JRA and referred us to a rheumatologist by the name of Dr. Paul Howard of Arthritis Health in Scottsdale, Arizona.

We are eternally grateful to have met Dr. Howard who took just one look at Joshua and stated “he has arthritis”. Not only did Joshua have arthritis in his right knee, but unbeknownst to us his right wrist was so fused together that he couldn’t raise his hand and he had it in his left ankle. Before the arthritis, Joshua was primarily right-handed, but had to start all over with his left in kindergarten. 

If you want to see a mom turn red with fury, be a teacher who shares with that mom that her son is very slow when they are cutting paper with scissors. Yes, this really happened.

Dr. Howard took action quickly and put Joshua on 7 teaspoons of liquid ibuprofen a day to begin and the short time after put him on a small weekly dose of Methotrexate. Believe me, at first I was torn giving him all this medication that I just knew would tear up his tummy, but he could barely walk. What would you do?

It is important to note here that maintaining a healthy diet and taking certain supplements like fish oil can possibly make a huge difference. I think everyone should check into these alternatives as well.

Unfortunately, after about a year Joshua had another flare up and Dr. Howard put him on a weekly injection of Enbrel. I’ll admit I was chicken and couldn’t bring myself to give him these injections so daddy had to step in here. Thank goodness!

Arthritis doesn’t just make Joshua stiff in certain joints and slow to move at times, it has slowed down the growth in his lower jaw and his right leg is actually about an inch longer than his left. These are all issues we can work around and it does not affect Joshua’s quality of life.

If you have additional questions about JRA and would like to learn more, please visit the Arthritis Foundation’s website.

Julie Sig

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