Jennifer O'Callaghan (16) was diagnosed when she was 12. Her symptoms started around the age of 10, but it took almost two years before she got the diagnosis. The doctors had previously thought it was a virus that kept attacking her system as several of her joints would flare up, but they would return to normal within a few days. She was also told she had hypermobility when she was diagnosed.
Jenny is in fourth year and her school has been fantastic and have facilitated her as much as possible. She has an iPad for school and two sets of books, so she can keep one at school and one at home.
Jenny suffers from psoriatic arthritis, even though she only has one or two small patches of psoriasis. She also has polyarticular JIA. Jenny still gets a lot of flare ups and painful swollen joints despite the medications. Due to her suppressed immune system, she picks up a lot of viral infections and has had the whooping cough and shingles since her diagnosis. She was recently diagnosed with secondary Raynauds as well.
Jenny has her bad days, but when she goes to Crumlin she sees a lot of very sick kids. She often says that things could be worse. She tries to focus on an upcoming event, like a break or a trip to the theatre, as she loves musicals. Jenny wants to go into the medical field and keeps focusing on what she can do in college. Her friends keep her going too and she gets great comfort out of an online chronic illness community through which she has made some very good friends who understand and support one other through the bad days.
Her mum, Sharon, says that she keeps going because she has to be strong for Jenny and she believes that one day her daughter will be much better and she looks forward to the day she can do more with her friends.