When our daughter was just two years old, we noticed her starting to limp. At first, we thought maybe she had fallen and hurt herself, but when we looked closer, we noticed her toe, ankles, and knees were swollen. After looking at her, our doctor sent us to an orthopedic specialist for more testing and several more rounds of x-rays. During those few months, Makaylah basically stopped walking. When she woke up in the morning, she could not stand or walk.
After several months with the Orthopedic Specialist, we were referred to a Pediatric Rheumatologist who immediately diagnosed Makaylah with Polyarticular Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. During this time, we were concerned and overwhelmed. We just wanted Makaylah to feel better. I didn’t know that children as young as Makaylah could get arthritis. Our doctor explained that polyarticular means that Makaylah’s arthritis affects five or more joints. Researchers aren’t sure why kids develop JIA, but they believe kids with JIA have certain genes that are activated by a virus, bacteria, or other external factors. We were happy to learn that there is no evidence that foods, toxins, allergies, or lack of vitamins cause the disease.
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is the most common type of arthritis in kids and teens. It is a chronic disease that typically causes joint pain and inflammation in the hands, knees, ankles, elbows, and/or wrists. But it may affect other body parts too. JIA used to be called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), but the name changed because it isn’t a kid version of the adult disease. The term “juvenile arthritis” is used to describe all the joint conditions that affect kids and teens, including JIA.
Makaylah is a kindergartener now and she enjoys dancing, singing, and playing with her brother. She is fascinated by unicorns and anything pink or purple. Her arthritis symptoms come and go, but she does not let JIA stop her from achieving her goals. Her medications include Methotrexate, Humira, and Folic Acid and so far, she is doing wonderful. There is no cure for JIA, but remission is possible. Since December of 2021, Makaylah has been in Medicated Remission. She is a strong, brave girl that lights up any room with her beautiful smile and personality. She does not let JIA stand in the way of being a kid.
We are so thankful that Makaylah started treatment as soon as possible because that’s the key to getting her disease under control as quickly as possible. We adopted healthier lifestyle habits as part of her treatment plan, which includes lots of activity balanced with rest. We cut back on foods that can cause inflammation such as high-fat, sugary, and processed foods. When her joints feel painful or swollen, we take breaks to help Makaylah preserve her energy. Sometimes that’s hard to do with a kindergartner!
After Makaylah’s diagnosis, we contacted the Arthritis Foundation to find information and support. They sent us a backpack filled with information and a fuzzy bear that can be heated to soothe aching joints. We have met other children with JIA which helps us get through the tough times with a chronic disease. Last year, the Executive Director for the Arthritis Foundation Louisiana asked if Makaylah would like to be the Youth Honoree for the the2022 Walk to Cure Arthritis in Baton Rouge. We were honored and Makaylah is very excited about it! She even recorded a video that we shared on Facebook to let others know about it. May is Arthritis Awareness Month so we’re glad to support the 300,000 kids in our country, like Makaylah, who have a form of juvenile arthritis. You can join us at the Walk on May 21 or support Makaylah and her team The Makaylahnators!!! by visiting our website HERE.