Mickey's Story

Mickey is such a happy, sweet, funny and friendly boy. He loves to dance, listen to music and play with friends. He’s healthy now. But not long ago, juvenile arthritis made childhood difficult. 

Three months short of his second birthday, Mickey developed a slight limp and began favoring one leg. At first, his parents – Mike and Jeanne – speculated that he may have twisted an ankle or a knee. Perhaps he had injured himself while running or jumping or falling. He was a toddler, after all. 


Since Mickey was too young to describe his pain, his parents would try to pinpoint the issue by looking for a reaction when they moved different parts of his leg. He never seemed to react, so Mike and Jeanne simply continued to monitor his symptoms. 


Mickey’s symptoms worsened and his limp became more pronounced. If he were immobile for an extended period, at naptime or overnight, he became noticeably stiff.  At times, he even need help getting to his feet. While he still didn’t show signs of acute pain, his parents felt he needed to see a doctor. 


Mickey’s pediatrician tentatively diagnosed him with toxic synovitis, a condition that can follow a viral infection. It is normally self-limiting and resolves quickly. All the symptoms fit.  The hope was his condition would improve with time.   


While some days were better than others, Mickey’s limp continued to worsen.  Then his knee began to swell. This was the first indicator that his knee was giving him problems. His parents felt helpless. Their little boy limped here and there, knee swollen, and he couldn’t tell them what it felt like. They were left to their imaginations, which were running wild.  It was one of the most trying and stressful times they’ve ever experienced. 


Another trip to the doctor turned into an admission at Children’s Hospital.  Now 22 months old, Mickey was a hospital patient.  That week was a scary whirlwind.  Mickey wore a hospital gown and learned the hard way about IVs and medicines and tests.  His parents tried their best to maintain a steely resolve and keep Mickey comfortable, but scary prospects like bone infection, tumor and Lyme disease made that hard.   


Having a young child in the hospital was such a foreign situation for Mike and Jeanne, and they took each day hour by hour, wondering what was going to happen to their sweet boy and their family.  At one point, his parents sat scared in a waiting room while Mickey was put under anesthesia for his pediatric orthopedic surgeon to perform an MRI with biopsy, possibly to tell his parents that surgery was needed to remove a tumor or address a bone infection.  That fear, fortunately, did not come to fruition.  The orthopedic surgeon told Mickey’s parents that he wasn’t sure what was causing the problem.  But he thought an arthritic condition could be the culprit. 


Mickey’s orthopedic surgeon referred the case to Dr. Brett Smith, a pediatric rheumatologist.  Dr. Smith saw Mickey in the hospital that week and assessed his condition. He was able to diagnose Mickey with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) almost immediately. He recommended a course of treatment to begin at once.  Finally an answer, and one that would avoid more scary tests and maybe even an exploratory surgery.  Mickey’s parents were so hopeful that they had an answer. 


The immediate course of action was a steroid shot directly to Mickey’s knee.  He responded beautifully.  Within two weeks, Mickey was walking normally.  He was running with his friends, jumping on his daddy and playing with his little sister and dog.  Mickey was back to doing all the things toddlers love to do.   


Mickey’s parents look back on those days often.  Through their teary eyes and stressful memories, they see reasons to be grateful.  First and foremost, they’re grateful Mickey responded to his treatment and has been fortunate to avoid his JIA flaring up again.  In that regard, he’s very lucky.  Many cases are chronic and affect the everyday lives of children.  Mickey’s parents also are thankful that JIA awareness was present enough in their area to help his doctors connect the dots and diagnose his condition.  Had his case never been referred to Dr. Smith, who knows when Mickey’s condition would have been diagnosed?   


Mickey is such a happy, sweet, funny and friendly boy.  He loves to dance, listen to music and play with friends. His parents are so thankful that he’s healthy.  They continue to monitor his health and are grateful they live in a community that has a good support system for JIA, which has armed them with the knowledge necessary to live with and handle this condition