This is the story of Jenna (AKA Bean). Diagnosed at four years old with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and Uveitis. This is her journey....
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Tottie's Pretties are ribbon wrapped headbands adorned with flowers & gems or perfect boutique bows. Banding Girls Together to Find a Cure for Childhood Arthritis. Tottie's supports CARRA and the Arthritis Foundation.
At some point, I don't know when, someone, don't know who, decided that we should call this crap disease Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis rather than Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. I have heard and read that the reason behind this is to better separate the adult disease from the childhood disease. Wouldn't the term JUVENILE in the name do that?? I suppose that I understand that if a child doesn't actually test positive for the rheumatoid factor than in fact it shouldn't be termed JRA. But does anyone really know what idiopathic means? Doesn't it make an already confusing disease a little MORE confusing?? About a week ago I was watching something on TV and the doctor used the word idiopathic when referring to the disease he was talking about. He went on to explain that idiopathic simply indicates that there is "no known cause or origin". HUH? THAT'S what it means?! Boy did I feel ignorant. I accepted a term for the chronic illness that my child battles without even knowing what it means?! *smacksforehead* I have been thinking on this, stewing on it since that day and decided to post this. I mean, I can't be the ONLY one....can I??
I continue to be amazed by the great awareness videos being made. Here is another one that was a collaborative effort of 3 Moms, the Mothers of the 3 girls in the video. THANK YOU Stacey, Kristie and Danielle! For more information please visit The International Autoimmune Arthritis Movement website.
One thing at a time, let's start with her ears. Wednesday of this week we saw the ENT to see if we could get to the bottom of her chronic ear infections. Basically one really long infection since February. She just finished her 4th round of antibiotics today. He confirmed what we already knew, that she has a build up of fluid in her ears. He suspected, as we did too, that her adenoids were enlarged making it impossible for anything to drain. She has had this nasty junky cough and snotty nose since last Fall, I guess that's all part of it. So he did an xray to check it out and sure enough they are enlarged. He also said that she has "significant hearing loss" which was surprising since we thought her hearing had come back! I was so shocked that I forgot to ask if this is permanent? Anyway, the game plan is to TRY to shrink the adenoids with nasal spray over the next 30 days and then we can avoid surgery. I'm all for it but I have my doubts. I suspect that in a matter of days, after finishing the antibiotic, the infection will return, as it has since February. Last week we were told by her Rheumatologist to hold her MTX. I am waiting on a call back as to whether or not we are to hold tonights MTX and Humira or give it. Also, if she does need to adenoidectomy and tubes inserted into her ears, do we stop then too? For how long? Over the last couple of days we have noticed a HUGE change in Jenna. Her energy level and attitude are incredible. I guess the MTX takes a larger toll on her than we realized! It's nice to see this side of her again. But, as my husband pointed out, this also means that she may be in for some serious pain. Time will tell. I want to emphasize her that it is the meds that control and treat her JIA and Uveitis that have made it impossible for her to fight off these infections. She is at risk and will suffer with any decision we make, whatever the outcome, she suffers in one way or another.
Now, onto PT. We have met with the PT only twice now and have been left to work on things ourselves at home otherwise. Each time we have met with him I feel as though he isn't listening? Or doesn't "get it"? Not sure, but something felt off. Jenna has been struggling with just basic leg lifts, particularly on her left side. This does not mean that she complains or tries to avoid doing them. On the contrary, she loves to. I pointed out to him that she was struggling, he suggested that maybe she isn't trying. Way to get my hackles up Dude. He tried giving her some different options for exercises and stretches, but she wasn't able to coordinate her body properly. It was getting frustrating. So, after talking to my amazing group of Moms I was referred to and contacted a local PEDIATRIC PT...DUH! Will we ever learn?? I am sure this other guy is great with his adult patients, just not my kid. I called this woman that specializes in peds and I loved speaking with her! I know this will be great. She addressed all of my concerns and I agreed 100% with everything she told me. We meet with her next Saturday!! Can't wait!
Last but certainly not least, the dreaded 504. Have you been following along? we have been trying to get this done since last year. Yep, last year. Just search 504 up at the top of the page, it will pull it all up. ;o) To sum it up for you, her school didn't feel she needed one nor was she entitled to one. I let it go for a bit and was stewing on it. Then after speaking with the folks at the Arthritis Foundation, I was urged to push on for it and they would be right there with me. I love them!! So I emailed Jenna's teacher to give her the heads up of what we were prepared to do if they wouldn't comply, suddenly, they were eager and willing. We went from them not even wanting a letter from an AF rep or any pamphlets or handouts on her diseases and meds to wanting to MEET with a rep in the hopes of learning more. HUH?! Oh well, whatever, let's go! So, Larry and I, along with an AF rep met with the Principal, teacher and school nurse. Someone....was noticeably absent! The guidance counselor. I don't know if that was intentional with the scheduling but it certainly worked in our favor. The entire mood of this meeting was completely different! I still don't think that they agree with a 504 for a 1st grader. They seem to think her medical action plan is sufficient, but we felt much more support and understanding from them and for that I am thankful. If anything new comes up between now and the end of the year we will meet again, otherwise we will meet again right before school starts up again in August.
I have lots to tell you. I am sorry if you are feeling neglected and out of the loop. I promise to sit and spend some time with you tomorrow. I promise to share all of the very latest details. Really...I promise...well, to try and spend some time with you tomorrow.
Jenna is still battling ear infections and is on her 4th course of antibiotics within an 8 week time frame. Yeah, that's just awesome. She no sooner comes off of them, she's back on. This time she didn't even have a fever, just complained of pain in her ears and she was deaf, again. So I really didn't even think they were infected. I thought maybe there was just too much fluid. I called her rheums office at Duke to run it all by them and see what they would want for if she did go to the ped. They are so awesome with communication that even on a "bad, crazy day in the office" in their words, they STILL called me back within a matter of a couple hours. The rheum said that 1) whether her ears are infected or not, it's time to call in an ENT to take a look. :( 2) Skip her MTX this Friday for SURE and possibly hold MTX and Humira next Friday. We'll wait and see what the ENT says about what's going on when we see him Wednesday next week and then call Duke. The rheums said that given how long she has been on MTX (Sept.08) and Humira ( Dec.09) she SHOULD be okay skipping these doses. Not entirely reassuring but I know we have no choice. Her ped said that the ENT will LIKELY suggest tubes. Not a big deal, right? Lots of kids have them, lots of kids have had many. Well not MY kid! Sure, it could be worse. Sure, I'm thankful it's not. But that doesn't always make the current struggle any easier. I read something this morning, "Without struggle, there is no progress.". I liked it, pretty profound.
When Jenna was last seen at Duke, just last month. Seems much longer ago! Anyway, we were given a script for PT for her. FINALLY. I really didn't know what to expect, I just wanted her to get some relief from the constant pain and fatigue. I found a place here in town that looked great and they said they could help her. At her 1st appointment we learned some new things, ALWAYS learning with this disease. Her hamstrings are SUPER tight! He thinks that this is what is causing her pain behind the knee. Also, she has significant weakness in her hips and upper legs. I had no clue. We thought she was strong. Her hamstrings are so tight that she struggled just getting into some of the positions to stretch. Her hip muscles so weak that she needs to contort her body to lift her leg. WOW. We went home with some "homework" and had our 3 week follow up this week. I'm not overly impressed. For one thing, Jenna is 7, not 77. So if you for the most part treat 77 yr olds, are you REALLY going to know how to handle a 7 yr old?? I don't know, things didn't feel right at this appointment. Jenna had really struggled over the last 3 weeks with these exercises and she didn't make any progress. When I told him this, he said that with kids it's tough to tell because maybe they just aren't trying. DUDE, wrong thing to say. I tried telling him how much the leg lifts hurt her hips, especially the left hip which we noticed is weaker. He kept mentioning the exercises hurting her behind her knee. HELLO?? Is this thing on? Her HIP, they hurt her HIP. Ugh, I don't know. I just had that "feeling", ya know? So I put it all out there to my AWESOME group of JA Moms on Facebook!! LOVE those ladies! They told me that she for sure needs a ped specific PT, I really should have known this. Also, they told me that I did the right thing by listening to my gut. It hasn't failed me yet. So, one of the Moms I just met and she's local AND she gave me the name and number of the ped PT that her daughter used AND she is right here in town! Trouble is she is out from knee surgery but all good things come to those who wait. :)
Okay, ONE last tidbit. Remember WAY back last Fall when I posted about requesting a 504 plan for Jenna at school? Remember the troubles we faced with that? Would you believe....we are STILL struggling to get this? Yep, still struggling. I had decided to let it ride and try again next year. After speaking with the folks at our local AF as well as some FIERCE JA Moms I was encouraged to pursue it. Things are moving along. I hate that I needed to make threats to get things moving, but they are none the less moving. Without the Arthritis Foundation....NONE of this would be possible. I told them in no uncertain terms that I can't do this without them! And you know what? They've got our backs. How...cool...is....THAT?
We have three items up for bid on Ebay!! My husband was recently helping our neighbor move and they came across two vintage camcorders and one vintage instant camera. Our neighbor knew that we were raising funds for the Arthritis Foundation and he told us to take them and see what we could get for them. Unfortunately one of the camcorders seems to not be in working order but it's still a really cool piece and who knows? Maybe YOU know how to fix it! Our last "ARTHRITIS CHARITY AUCTION" netted us $75 that we were able to donate. We are hopeful that these vintage finds can bring in a hefty donation. Think of the photographer in your family, think of that collector that you know, and then dig deep. Here are the links: Continental Colorshot 2000
Here is the why for all this: (facts from the AF) *Nearly 300,00 children under age 17 are affected by juvenile arthritis *JRA, affecting more than 50,000 children, is the most common form of juvenile arthritis and one of the most common childhood diseases in the United States. * Arthritis and related diseases, such as JA, cost the U.S. economy nearly $128 BILLION annually in medical care and indirect expenses.
Common Symptoms of JA: *PAIN, swelling, tenderness and stiffness of joints, causing limited range of motion. *JOINT CONTRACTURE, which results from holding a painful joint in a flexed position for an extended period. *DAMAGE to joint cartilage and bone leading to JOINT DEFORMITY and IMPAIRED USE of that joint. *ALTERED GROWTH of bone and joints.
Did you know: *The Arthritis Foundation has granted $380 MILLION to research across the country since 1948. * Over the past 10 years the AF has funded over $3.2 MILLION in the Carolinas. Including but not limited to, aquatics programs, tai chi programs, Kids Rheum which is an INCREDIBLE support system! * It costs the AF $1200 to send a family to the Juvenile Arthritis Conference.