Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Michael, Quinn & Connor 2002 USA

The basketball game, bicycle ride, and dreams of being a fighter pilot all started to fade into the past for our then 7-year-old son. The pain actually began one year earlier when he was in the first grade. Conner fractured his right arm in a soccer game and the pain never went away. In fact, the pain became increasingly worse and then strangely his left elbow began hurting. When he was in the 2nd grade, his right knee began to swell.

Eighteen months after the arm fracture, Conner was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis [JRA]. I remember the shock I felt when the pediatrician told us the symptoms pointed to this diagnosis. This once vivacious, happy-go-lucky, fearless child who was full of life and laughter had become a little boy who couldnt get up off the couch to play outside. He complained of constant pain. His joints were, one by one, becoming increasingly swollen. He had rashes, headaches, stomach aches, sores by his mouth that wouldn’t heal, he was constantly sick and dark circles had formed under his beautiful blue eyes.

Although the pediatrician recognized the symptoms, he felt that Conner needed to see a specialist for treatment. Thus, began his journey of joint aspirations, injections, physical therapy and numerous anti-inflammatory medications. At the age of 9, he had seen several rheumatologists locally and nothing seemed to be working. We were referred to a pediatric rheumatologist in Seattle who prescribed Celebrex. Conner had some times of reprieve from pain and swelling, but chronic stomach aches. Through his elementary years, he would try each year to participate in sports, as he is a sports fanatic (basketball being his favorite). Each time, he would get started with a driving desire to excel, but before the end of the season the swollen joints and pain prevented his finish.

When he was 12 years old, the spring of 6th grade, Conner had dropped to an all time low with his disease. There were increasing mornings that getting out of bed was difficult. “I don’t feel good” were the words we heard so often. His fingers were too sore and painful to do his schoolwork. His knees were very swollen and painful. He continued to have strange skin rashes and complained of severe stomach pain and symptoms of a bleeding ulcer. (At this point in the school year, he had already missed the maximum number of school days due to the arthritis pain and chronic illness.) We made another trip to the rheumatologist who told us that Celebrex doesn’t cause ulcers, that he needed to see another specialist and probably have his stomach scoped. He injected Conner’s knee that day and promptly told him to get up off the table and proceeded to have him do some stretching exercises. He then told us that we needed to make an appointment with a pain clinic so that Conner could learn how to deal with the pain, since there is no cure for arthritis!

When we left that office, Conner told me that he never wanted to go back there again. That is when we determined to find someone who could help our son! After much prayer and research, we learned of a naturopath in a nearby town who had helped people with arthritis. We went to see her. She was a registered nurse and naturopathic doctor and she educated us about diet, started Conner on some supplements and told us that we must go see a very experienced rheumatologist in Boston to seek antibiotic therapy. Because of Conner’s age and the doctors experience, our practitioner highly recommended that we make the 3,000-mile trip for Conner’s treatment.

My first thought was how was I going to afford trips to Boston to seek medical care? I decided to research this information at length before making such a big commitment. Our son’s health and life were at stake here, so I was highly motivated to get some answers. I ordered the book The New Arthritis Breakthrough and read it cover-to-cover. I also spent many hours on the Internet searching for information and reading the information on the Road Back Foundation’s Web site. I called the doctor in Boston to ask if he would review my son’s records to determine if he was a candidate for this therapy.

The physician called me back and after our telephone conference, encouraged me to make an appointment and get Conner there as soon as possible. We were convinced antibiotic therapy was worth trying. In the spring of 2002, we traveled to Boston seeking an evaluation and advice. After his examination, the physician prescribed minocycline antibiotic treatment.

Conner didn’t immediately get better, but he was a very sick young man. It took about 3 months, but then he began showing signs of progress. By now, he had begun Jr. High. Thankfully, the teachers and staff at his school have been extremely helpful over the years and began anticipating his needs each school year. At the beginning of 7th grade, he still had some difficulties writing his assignments and sitting for long periods of time caused stiffness and pain. He also had stairs to negotiate at the new school location. Some days, the pain required that he take the elevator instead of the stairs and risk getting ribbed by his peers.

He just finished the 8th grade, and we are so excited about his progress. This past year, he played Jr. High Basketball and with the exception of an unrelated injury, was able to participate the entire season. The school nurse approached me at the end of the year and told me that she hadn’t seen much of Conner this past year, he must be feeling better (when feeling bad, he frequented her office for comfort and/or Aleve). I also spoke with the resource teacher and she informed me that Conner didn’t approach her for assistance this past year. He is feeling better, coping better and functioning well. He has a great out outlook and has much more energy. No more joint injections!

We’ve all learned that diet is a big factor in health. We have reduced sugar intake, eat more fruits and vegetables. Conner continues to take some supplements and a whole food nutritional supplement.

We’ve learned the importance of proper nutrition in the healing process. We are forever grateful to that physician in Boston, his work in this field and for taking our son as a patient. Minocycline has changed his life and now he can play and dream again.

Antibiotic treatment may not be for everyone. We recommend consulting an experienced physician and seeing if this treatment option is right in your circumstance.

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