New York—June 21, 2012
Cheyanne, who lives in Woodhaven, has juvenile arthritis, which causes pain and swelling in her knees and other joints. Juvenile arthritis is an umbrella term that refers to many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children ages 16 and younger.
Cheyanne was only three years old when her parents knew something was terribly wrong. It was Christmas day, and her knee was painfully swollen. Her father had to carry her down the stairs so she could open her presents.
Over the years, she has maintained a positive attitude and nowadays devotes much time to educating others about juvenile arthritis. Thanks to specialized care and treatment by a pediatric rheumatologist at Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, Cheyanne is living life as a happy 10-year-old.
Dr. Emma Jane MacDermott, her rheumatologist at Special Surgery, says medical advances have enabled many young patients to live life to the fullest. Hospital for Special Surgery is also supporting the upcoming Arthritis Walk, and hospital teams have raised more than $7,000 so far.
“When a child is diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, many parents are worried and upset,” Dr. MacDermott says. “They are thinking about a future for their child full of problems, and we really like to reassure parents that’s not the case. A lot of parents worry that their children shouldn’t be in sports, they won’t be able to take part in physical activity, and that’s often not the case.”
Although her knees occasionally hurt, Cheyanne has little time to rest. She has already surpassed her goal of raising $500 for the Arthritis Foundation Walk. She has recruited her family and friends for the effort, and they sport t-shirts that say “Team Cheyanne.”
“On the back of the t-shirt it says ‘Walking for a Cure’ so they can find a cure for kids like me with juvenile arthritis and anyone else, because it’s hard for us to do activities sometimes, especially during the winter,” Cheyanne explains. “When I get sick, my knee bothers me with the rest of my body.”
But an intravenous treatment every six months helps her feel much better. “All the medicine is working, it’s helping me a lot. I can usually play in the gym and at recess.” Like many kids her age, Cheyanne likes to run and jump rope.
Medications help tremendously, according to Dr. MacDermott. “Parents should be encouraged and feel that they can let their children lead normal lives, attend school and behave as normal children.”
Cheyanne’s project for the school science fair was designed to educate her classmates on how juvenile arthritis affects children. “I had a whole bunch of people looking at my project, more than the others. They said this is really cool, how does it make you feel?”
When asked what she would tell other children newly diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, her advice is wise for her years. “You don’t have to be that scared because after a while you’ll know it’s just a small part of your life, and just believe that it’s not even there. It’s going to be hard at first, but then it’s going to get better and better and better.”