This story is from the Let's Move Together Arthritis Walk Orlando Florida website. The arthritis that Bean and all these other kids suffer from is NOT your grandmas arthritis. It isn't from old age, or an injury. It's an autoimmune disorder. THAT is why it is so serious. It can attack ANY part of the body. I debated whether or not to even share this. It's scary and it's depressing. But ya know what? It's REALITY for us.
A Tribute to the life of Jennifer Schott
Jenny never wanted to be an outsider, and to her family and friends, she never was. But having been diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in 1980 when she was about 2 years old, she would soon find it impossible to live like everyone else. After a diagnosis during a hospitalization in Pittsburgh because of severe soreness and swelling in one knee, Jenny was prescribed increasing dosages of baby aspirin, up to 60 per day, to deal with the inflammation, soreness and pain. But, according to her father George Schott, the pain just got progressively worse as did Jenny's condition. "We would have to give her hot baths every morning just to loosen up her joints, and the aspirin never seemed to provide relief", says George. He continues,"As she grew and her condition became more complicated, her medications became more experimental ranging from extremely painful gold injections, steroids, growth hormones, to Methotrexate before they had much experience with proper dosage of this drug. The doctors tried all they knew, but treatment for the disease was not well known and she was very much an experiment for the doctors at that point".
It was in high school that Jenny started to experience what would become the highlight of her life, teaching and helping others. She tutored other students and eventually started her own tutoring business. After high school, Jenny was determined to make her dream of becoming a teacher come to fruition. She received a number of monetary scholarships to continue her education including acceptance into Rollins College and a full paid scholarship to Stetson University because of her excellent academic performance. But she could not accept them because it would have required her to keep a full academic schedule. At this point in her life, her medications and physical condition were becoming so extreme that this wasn't an option. However, determined as ever, Jenny learned how to drive a specially designed van so she could get back and forth to college completely on her own since living away from home at this time was not possible. So she enrolled in Seminole Community College (now Seminole State College) which allowed her much more flexibility. While at SCC, Jenny was Founder and President of a support group called "Inside the Outsiders", where students dealing with handicaps could come together and share experiences and provide support to each other. Jenny also continued to tutor students from a number of local elementary and high schools, and even other colleges. She graduated from SCC with High Honors and Distinction with a 4.0 GPA, was a Member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and an Associates of Arts in Mathematics degree in hand.
Sadly, her dream became a physical nightmare. Her condition worsened until finally she had to leave the teaching field. Eventually Jenny was in so much pain that she had very limited mobility and spent much of her time with doctors, in hospitals, or at home in bed. Some of the medications she was given were so strong that they left her incoherent at times. The disease, as well as the effects of 20 plus years of drugs, operations, and experimentation, was affecting all of her internal organs. Her doctors, realizing how much pain she was in, kept her heavily sedated until finally they told Jenny that she had less than a year left to live. Jenny was at peace with this news, even orchestrating her own funeral service by selecting her clothes, readings from the Bible, and the music. With the help of Hospice, she spent the last six months of her life at home, mostly sedated to keep her comfortable as the arthritis finally took all control from Jenny's hands. And one of her last wishes was a very unselfish one. Jenny wanted to create a scholarship for handicapped students at Seminole Community College.
"We couldn't be more grateful for all the help and support of our fellow Parrot Heads in making this event a fun tradition that means so much to not only George and I, but also the Arthritis Foundation", says Lisa, now President of the Parrot Heads of Central Florida. "It has helped George tremendously to open up about and deal with all the emotions of losing a child, and rationalize what happened by helping others". Lisa also said "I am so proud of him for being such a strong, loving man and creating a legacy for Jenny that will live on and on".
George and Lisa Schott can always be found orchestrating the music and announcements from the Tiki Booth at the bowling tournament. And each year, there in a picture frame sits a picture of a beautiful girl with a warm smile named Jenny Schott, who may have lost her battle with arthritis but won the war by inspiring her father, stepmother, and many others to bring awareness and necessary funds for research for a cure to the illness that never kept her from fulfilling her dreams.