MOLLIE S. WATERS | The Greenville Standard
Arthritis is an illness that most people only associate with the elderly. However, it is a lot more common in children than one might think.
According to the Arthritis Foundation website, Juvenile Arthritis (JA) impacts nearly 300,000 children in the United States alone.
One local family deals with the illness on a daily basis. Kevin and Melissa Boswell’s son, Dylan, has been living with JA since he was eight-years-old. He is now fifteen.
When speaking of Dylan’s struggle with JA, Melissa Boswell said that it was hard to watch her son be in so much pain.
“To watch your child be in pain and suffer is one of the hardest things I have ever done,” said Boswell. “My husband and I wish we could take the pain away and transfer it to us, but we can’t. As a family we just try to stay positive, stay strong in our faith and let Dylan know we are there for him.”
According to Boswell, Dylan was officially diagnosed with Polyarticular Juvenile Arthritis, meaning he had five or more active joints at the time of diagnosis.
Even before his official diagnosis, Dylan had pains for at least a year; pains his parents had hoped were just growing pains.
“He would wake up in the mornings with stiffness in his hands and sometimes his feet,” said Boswell. “Then, he began having a lot of neck pain. After being seen by our primary physician for a physical and having labs, we were referred to a Children’s Hospital Department of Rheumatology for a consult.”
Boswell stated that since the original consultation and some initial trial steroids, Dylan has gone through multiple treatments and has been prescribed many different medications. Some of those treatments and medications have been more difficult than others.
“The weeks he was getting three injections were the roughest,” said Boswell. “All of the medications to treat autoimmune diseases like JA also lower immune systems, so we try to be extra vigilant about illnesses going around and such.”
Boswell also explained that Dylan’s most active diseased (eroded) joint is his TMJ, which is associated with the joint in the jawbone. For Dylan, a surgery for his jawbone joint is a real possibility.
“We are talking with the oral surgeon now to come up with an experimental plan to try to put off having a TMJ total joint replacement as long as we can,” said Boswell. “He does daily physical therapy exercises to help keep his jaw opening wide.”
Boswell said that she was glad that awareness is being raised about JA because most people do not realize that it is very different from other types of arthritis.
“It is an autoimmune disease, which basically means the child’s body’s natural immune system goes awry,” explained Boswell. “Instead of protecting it against external onslaughts, such as the flu, the cells of the immune system become the body’s own worst enemy, attacking its own cells by mistake. In JA, the result is usually pain and inflammation, fever, etc.”
Boswell wanted to make other people whose children may be suffering with JA aware of the great resources the Arthritis Foundation has.
“They have JA Saturdays for children,” said Boswell. “Dylan’s favorite is Camp MASH (Make Arthritis Stop Hurting). It is held every summer in Mobile at Camp Grace and is free of charge to children who have JA.”
Boswell says that Dylan has attended the camp for four years, and it is one of his favorite times of the year.
“It is so special to see 80-90 children from around the Alabama and Mississippi area feel like they have no limitations and to be around other kids who understand exactly what they are going through,” said Boswell.
For more information about JA, visit the Arthritis Foundation website at arthritis.org.