Kelli and Andrew Slater’s bouncy toddler seemed to change overnight. Addison was running and jumping one day. Then she stopped. She would no longer stand in her crib as usual after waking from a nap.
“She had always been very physical,” Kelli said. “But she all of a sudden wanted to stay on the couch. She would walk around like a little old lady. She wasn’t sleeping well or eating right.”
Kelli and Andrew knew something was wrong. But Kelli, a nurse, never imagined Addison could have juvenile arthritis.
Dr. Phillippi and Nurse Practitioner Nancy Delnay, examined her fingers, wrists, ankles and knees.
“Just by looking at her, they knew within 20 minutes of the visit,” Kelli said. “As a mom and a nurse, it was shocking.”
The rheumatology division sees patents from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. They don’t often see patients Addison’s age with a case of juvenile arthritis affecting so many joints.
There are several types of juvenile arthritis. Addison has the type known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis. It’s an autoimmune disease that caused inflammation in Addison’s fingers, knees and elbows.
“When we saw her, she had trouble moving her fingers,” Nancy said. “She was having pain and not eating. It was bad enough that we admitted her to the hospital. That doesn’t happen often.”
Addison has since responded well to a medication called methotrexate and steroid therapy. The hope is that the disease will go into remission and she will wean off medication.
Nancy said arthritis in children is treatable, and most are able to live normal lives.
“Arthritis should not limit life opportunities. We have children who participate in sports, music, arts and sciences,” she said.
July is Juvenile Arthritis Month, a reminder that early recognition is critical to prevent damage to the joints.
Children with juvenile arthritis may not complain of pain, but will show other signs:
- Persistent joint swelling.
- Stiffness, especially in the morning.
- Difficulty walking.
- Sudden changes in play — reluctance to squat or be physical; using knuckles or elbows instead of fingers to grasp or climb.
- Fevers and fatigue with no obvious cause like a cold.
- Children may also develop rashes.
The rheumatology division is part of the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA), a national collaborative focused on research, prevention and treatment.
“Our group at Akron Children’s is committed to research to find a cure,” Nancy said.
Kelli said she is optimistic the disease will not get in Addison’s way.
“She’s a tough cookie for 18 months old. You’d never know she has arthritis,” she said. “She’s very determined and it’s good she’s like that. She just pushes through it.”