Last week I told you all about the Teen Honoree for the Jingle Bell Run, Shannon Ward. She’s such an amazing young teen. This week I can’t wait for you to meet Emma Connelly, the Jingle Bell Youth Honoree. At the age of 6, Emma skipped everywhere she went, but she didn’t have her same smile or effervescent energy. One afternoon, as Emma prepared to go swimming, her family noticed that her left knee was significantly swollen, and she was having trouble straightening her leg. Her skipping, they learned, was her way of hiding her discomfort.
Emma’s family consulted their pediatrician who suspected Lyme Disease or an orthopedic issue. The orthopedic surgeon ruled out any breaks or sprains and agreed Lyme was the likely culprit for the swelling in Emma’s knee. Preliminary testing for Lyme came back negative. The doctor attempted to aspirate Emma’s knee to have the fluid tested, but no fluid could be drawn. It was then the doctor suspected something more. He suggested that Emma likely had juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), also known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA).
Autoimmune testing confirmed a diagnosis of JIA, and Emma began treatment with a rheumatologist in the fall. She travels regularly to see her rheumatologist to monitor the disease. She also has her vision checked several times a year, because the inflammation had also affected her eyes – a condition known as uveitis. Without regular monitoring, the inflammation could return and result in permanent loss of vision.
Emma is learning to control her symptoms with diet and medication, and is a thriving young ballerina. The stretching and movement of ballet help reduce Emma’s joint pain. She is also an avid swimmer and budding chef.
As a youth honoree, Emma is proud to represent kids with arthritis. She hopes that one day researchers will find a cure for arthritis that will allow her and others to live life free from pain and debilitating symptoms.
Join Shannon, Emma, Me and the rest of us at the Jingle Bell Run on December 2nd in Solomons Island, Md!
So what is the Jingle Bell Run?
The Arthritis Foundation’s original Jingle Bell Run is the longest-standing festive race around, helping champion arthritis research and bringing people from all walks of life together to say Yes to furthering a great cause. Get jolly for a reason and be there with bells on for the one in four Americans with arthritis! Bring your friends, family and co-workers to a fun-filled day of holiday cheer, where 100 percent of your registration fee and fundraising efforts go to charity. If you’d rather just walk, no problem!