Living with juvenile arthritis

FOR most of us the word arthritis immediately brings connotations of old age and perhaps older family members.

But for Newtownstewart teenager Seán Coyle, arthritis is a daily reality.

Every day over 200,000 people across the North deal with the constant pain associated with the condition. Among those thousands are some 600 children under the age of 16 who suffer from Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), which involves inflammation, pain and swelling in one or more joints for at least six weeks.

Diagnosed at the age of three, 15-year-old Seán has known the condition for most of his life. “It developed when I was three, I was in hospital for a couple of weeks. They didn’t know what I had, but then I was transferred to Musgrave and that’s where I met Dr Jackson, the consultant who diagnosed me,” he reveals.

Coping with joint pain and inflammation, the Holy Cross Strabane student takes painkillers and has fluid taken out of his joints to fight the aches.

“It’s getting less painful as I go along because I’m starting to take more painkillers. It’s still bad, but as I get older I’m able to take more medication.”

However as he enters his main GCSE year, the teenager discloses that it’s the frustration he feels over the barriers his condition often places before him that can prove the most challenging aspect.

Keen on both football and hurling, Seán would like to do nothing better than spend his summer playing sports with his friends.

“My friends can play sports and are able to go out, but because I’m sore often I can’t do anything but lie there. I try and play a bit of hurling, but it’s no good.”


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