Teens live with arthritis

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:33 PM

Both also suffer from arthritis.

Rylie, an eighth-grader at Lakeshore Middle School, was diagnosed with junior polyarticular arthritis four years ago. Melanie, a sophomore at Grand Haven High School, was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in August 2012.

Rylie is the youth honoree for this year’s Arthritis Walk in Grand Rapids. It takes place Saturday morning at the John Ball Park Zoo in Grand Rapids, where Rylie will lead participants in the signature fundraising walk for the Arthritis Foundation.

Want to walk?

When: Saturday, May 4

Where: John Ball Park Zoo, 1300 W. Fulton St., Grand Rapids

Time: Check-in begins at 8:30 a.m., the pre-walk program is at 9:45 a.m. and the walk begins at 10 a.m.

For registration and walk details, CLICK HERE.

As classmates and other teens learn about the sisters’ diagnoses, some don’t understand what they go through because they otherwise look healthy, said their mother, Julie Innes.

“(Other children) don’t understand how it affects their everyday lives,” she said.

The girls' sister and Melanie’s twin, Madison, has not been diagnosed with the debilitating disease.

Rylie’s diagnosis came when she was 10 and in the fifth grade. She complained to her mother about a swollen, purple and hurting finger.

The initial test results were negative, though the young girl quickly became fatigued when running in gym class and couldn’t play on the swings at school because of the pain. After an examination, the doctor determined Rylie had inflammation in every joint of her body, with the exception of her back.

Dr. Tomas Malvitz, an orthopedic surgeon for the Orthopedic Associates of Michigan, said it's not uncommon for results to initially come back negative. He said it’s often difficult to diagnose arthritis because a person could have joint pain without having arthritis.

When first hearing she had arthritis, Rylie said she thought it was something that only afflicted old people.

“I didn’t know what to think,” she said. “I didn’t know what it was.”

Rylie was immediately treated with pills and shots to stop the disease's progression, but finding a medicine to help with pain and inflammation hasn’t been easy for her. The pills were tolerable, Rylie said, but the shots involved a searing and burning pain. She remembered trying to lock herself in the bathroom to escape the needle.

The young girl began losing her hair, developed anxiety so bad that she wouldn’t go to restaurants, and developed an aversion to food.

For years, Melanie suffered from psoriasis of the scalp. When it moved to her eyelid, she was tested for psoriatic arthritis. Testing revealed Melanie has arthritis in her spine.

Both girls have their arthritis managed with a twice-a-week shot.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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