Emma’s Story 

When arthritis affects every inch of your body, it can be hard to keep a positive outlook. But 9-year-old Emma won’t let her diagnosis keep her down. She’s fighting back. 

Emma, a vibrant 9-year-old from Columbia, Missouri, tries not to let arthritis keep her from having fun and staying active.  Since her symptoms are now mostly controlled with medicine, she can do the activities she enjoys, including ballet, jazz, aikido and playing with her friends. When Emma was diagnosed at 3 years old, this future wasn’t so certain.   

 While helping Emma put on her shoes, her mom noticed her left knee was swollen. At the doctor’s office the next morning, her pediatrician suspected that it was arthritis. Knowing the threat arthritis poses to the eyes, she made Emma an eye appointment the following week and referred her to a pediatric rheumatologist in St. Louis to confirm the diagnosis. 

 Emma was diagnosed oligoarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis, which has affected her body from head to toe. She has pain and swelling in her toes, ankles, knees and fingers and uveitis in her eye. For the last couple of years, she’s had regular MRIs to monitor joint damage caused by arthritis in her jaw.   

 At this time, Emma’s medicine is a shot that she gets in her stomach every other week. Her medicine weakens her immune system, which increases the possibility of her getting sick. It also makes it impossible for her to get some vaccines that could protect her from other illnesses. She gets a blood panel done every few months to make sure the medicine isn’t negatively affecting her body. Emma has learned to endure all these things over the last six years with strength and continues to have a positive attitude.