Emma Chambers (10) was diagnosed at around 18 months with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). This was after a few weeks of worry about swellings, with a significant one on her knee. Initially her mother thought she had fallen and hurt her knee, but after x-rays and blood tests it became clear it was something else. When JIA was diagnosed, Emma had joint injections to reduce the swellings. Since then she has had many swellings on numerous joints, but with current medication the condition is well controlled.
Emma is currently in fourth class and is doing great. She’s the tallest girl in the class, so obviously having JIA has not damaged her growth!
Emma participates in all school activities and many after-school activities, such as playing the recorder and clarinet, swimming, and camogie. She is very determined to not let the JIA hold her back and, if anything, it has given her a greater drive/motivation to succeed. She recently said she wants to be the first camogie player with arthritis to make the Dublin team!
Symptom-wise Emma has a lot of stiffness and joint pain, especially if she over does things in any one day, like sitting reading for too long, playing sport for too long or playing instruments for too long. It’s important therefore that she takes breaks throughout the day. Recently, she gets most pain in her jaw. She also has uveitis (a form of eye inflammation) as a result of the condition and this means much monitoring and frequent attendance at Crumlin’s ophthalmology department, along with lots of other appointments for physio and occupational therapy, blood tests and at the rheumatology department.
What keeps the family going is that Emma is doing great despite her condition; she’s growing and participating in activities like any 10-year-old would like to do. The hospital staff are also lovely to Emma. She has been with them for nine years of her 10 years, so she feels very comfortable around them and they are so comforting and open about the condition.
The message Emma and her family would like to impart is that with the improvements in medication and monitoring of the condition, once the symptoms are under control, life can go on as normal and there is no need to miss out on fun. Who knows what the future might hold for Emma in terms of her arthritis, but to date she is flying. She does have bad days, but they are few and far between at the moment and hopefully it will stay like this.
Juvenile arthritis has given her an awareness of herself and other children with conditions that she would not have had did she not have this disease. It has also resulted in her wanting to study medicine.