Emma’s Story 

Emma has been the underdog since childhood. Diagnosed with juvenile arthritis as a toddler, she couldn’t always keep up. Now, as a teen, she’s found her voice by helping kids just like her. 

Emma was a spunky 2-year-old. But she woke up each morning and could barely walk. She was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) before her third birthday, and the diagnosis framed much of her childhood. She spent most of her early years inevitably picked last for any competitive activity at school, and despite her parents’ valiant efforts for her participation in youth sports, the excruciating pain in her knees and ankles sidelined her from being able to compete. 


Emma struggled for years with the trial and error of ineffective oral prescription combinations, injections, MRIs and outpatient surgeries. Though she endured injections that came with the piercing pain of long needles going into her belly and an awful metallic taste that lingered in her mouth hours after, they offered little relief. 


When she was finally eligible for an IV drip step therapy, she was hopeful. And thankfully, the treatment worked to reduce her inflammation. At 17, and after a few months of treatment, there were no active signs of arthritis. Relief was welcome, but the damage had been done and the loss of cartilage in her knees was irreversible. 


Despite her struggles, Emma grew from an insecure, quiet little girl who was categorized as different for most of her life into an optimistic and determined young woman. She found confidence in serving as a counselor at the Arthritis Foundation’s Camp Joint Adventures. That inclusive environment changed the trajectory of her life and sparked her interest in advocating for younger versions of herself. 


Today, Emma has been accepted into the honors program at Midland University in Fremont, Nebraska. She plans to pursue a degree in communications with an emphasis in philanthropy and will have the opportunity to cheer collegiately. She hopes to use both platforms to leave a legacy through a nonprofit organization like the Arthritis Foundation that can cultivate positive change for the underdogs like her.