Advocacy Spotlight – Lauren Danker, Ellicott City, Maryland
Lauren is a 10th grader at Howard High School in Maryland. She attended for the first time the Advocacy Summit.
I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. for the Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Summit and Kids’ Summit in February – it was an amazing experience for me in many ways.
It may sound funny to say, but it feels as though I am one of the lucky ones. Not lucky that I have RA, but I am fortunate that a few things went my way that allows me to lead a normal life. Specifically, my condition was detected within two weeks of onset, I work with a great rheumatologist in my hometown, and the medicines I take are having very positive effects for me.
Every time I attend an arthritis event, I am reminded of how many other people share my disease. In addition to adults, there are lots of children that are stricken with arthritis. Many were misdiagnosed or not given the proper treatment initially, leading to many months or even years lost. Some need to travel great distances just to have appointments with their rheumatologists, which makes me realize how fortunate I am to have one nearly minutes away. The medications are expensive, and I’ve talked to kids that don’t have the insurance to cover all the costs.
Much needs to be done – we need more doctors to specialize in pediatric rheumatology and more money for research. Our government can, and should help…and that’s why over 250 of us headed to Washington D.C.
In my AP Government classes, we learned about the difficult process for bills to become laws (over 4,000 bills are introduced in every 2 year Congress), and since the Arthritis Foundation has introduced H.R. 583 and S. 424, I thought I’d help spread the word to my representatives that this bill needs to get passed (the last bill passed for arthritis was in 1970!). We need more funding to continue to develop drugs like Enbrel (the one I take), and to help support doctoral students considering rheumatology as a specialty.
My parents have been an advocate for me, now it is time for me to become an advocate for others with arthritis. This opportunity has inspired me to become more involved in what can be done with the help of people across the country. Joining the Advocacy Network has been an important step for me. I would encourage others to get involved too – it is easy, and makes you feel better about making an impact in the lives of many. Get your elected representatives to hear your opinions about arthritis. See for yourself what a few minutes can do!