Aged six, she was given an arthritis diagnosis, which I disregarded despite it being a potentially disabling illness.

Keavagh, 6, pictured, was diagnosed with the rare condition juvenile idiopathic arthritis in October 2022 after a fall at a friend's birthday party.

A six-year-old girl was unable to walk without crutches when she was diagnosed with arthritis.

Leeanne Taggart, 43, from Glasgow, had never heard of a child with arthritis until her daughter, Keavagh, 6, was diagnosed with the rare condition juvenile idiopathic arthritis in October 2022.

Mrs Taggart said, ‘It was a lonely place to be, because I had never heard of a child with arthritis.

“It’s something you automatically associate with older people, not kids.”

Keavagh, 6, pictured, was diagnosed with the rare condition juvenile idiopathic arthritis in October 2022 after a fall at a friend’s birthday party.

What is juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and what are the symptoms?

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is the most common form of arthritis in children and teens.

It’s an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system, which is supposed to fight off invaders like germs and viruses, goes haywire and attacks the cells and tissues of the body.

This then causes the body to release inflammatory chemicals that attack the tissue lining around the joint (synovium).

It produces a fluid that fills up the joints, but this can cause pain and make the joint tender, red, swollen, or difficult to move.

Symptoms include:

  • Joint pain or stiffness; may get worse after waking up or staying in one position for too long.
  • Red, swollen, tender or warm joints.
  • Feeling very tired or exhausted (fatigue).
  • Blurred vision or dry, gritty eyes.
  • Rash.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • High fever.

Source: Arthritis Foundation

The condition, which affects one in 1,000 children in the UK, causes symptoms such as joint pain or stiffness, red, tender or warm joints, tiredness, blurred vision, loss of appetite, rash and high fever.

Her daughter Keavagh, who loved to dance, swim and do gymnastics, showed no obvious signs of the paralyzing condition until she fell on a friend’s birthday cake last August.

Mrs Taggart says she ‘didn’t think much of it’, Keavagh was dancing, hobbling to the floor and immediately got back up and continued dancing with her friends.

But the next day, she was in pain and her knee was swollen—a telltale sign of the autoimmune disease.

Assuming Keavagh’s knee was simply sprained or twisted, Mrs. Taggart took her to the ER where she had an x-ray.

Doctors found fluid around her knee, gave her pain medication and told Ms Taggart a physio would be in touch.

But within two weeks, Keavagh got the worst of it.

She couldn’t walk and wasn’t eating, so she started losing weight—another sign of the condition.

After many hospital visits, Keavagh finally got an MRI scan and a face-to-face appointment with a physical therapist who referred her to rheumatology.

The following day, Keavagh was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis.

Mrs Taggart said: ‘We couldn’t reach it at all – it was utterly devastating.. It’s more common than you think.

“All I could think was, How could my six-year-old have arthritis? I made the mistake of googling it and came across a lot of horror stories.

“It was terrifying. To begin with, however, Keavagh was unaware of how bad it could be.

“She was put on crutches and had to stay out of school because she couldn’t walk.”

Ms Taggart says Keavagh left hospital ‘practically hopping’ after starting treatment, which included getting cortisone injections in her knees and ankles.

Keavagh, who loved dancing, swimming and gymnastics, could not walk without crutches and was in pain

The six-year-old was in pain, her knee was swollen and she was losing weight, all telltale signs of juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Keavagh, (pictured left) who loved dancing, swimming and gymnastics, could not walk without crutches and was in pain. The six-year-old was in pain, her knee was swollen (pictured right) and she was losing weight, all telltale signs of juvenile idiopathic arthritis

However, her treatment later changed to a weekly injection at the top of her thigh, which she found “traumatic.”

“She cried and screamed and hid because she hated it so much.

“It was terrible to see,” Mrs. Taggert said.

Her treatment was changed for a third time after a different medication made her anxious and ill.

Mrs Taggart said: ‘Fortunately she is now on a liquid form of medication that she takes herself every day and at the moment she is fine.

“As a result of her arthritis, Keavagh also suffers from uveitis, which can cause eye pain, changes in your vision and in some cases lead to glaucoma or even blindness.

“So she has to go to the hospital for transfusions every six weeks to avoid having these problems.”

Keavagh struggled with the various treatments and the medications left her anxious and ill

Keavagh struggled with the various treatments and the medications left her anxious and ill

The Taggart family struggled with Keavagh's diagnosis, but Keavagh is now back in school and enjoying dance and gymnastics again.  Pictured from left to right Jayden 13, Andrew Taggart, 45, Keavagh, 6, and Leeanne Taggart, 43

The Taggart family struggled with Keavagh’s diagnosis, but Keavagh is now back in school and enjoying dance and gymnastics again. Pictured from left to right Jayden 13, Andrew Taggart, 45, Keavagh, 6, and Leeanne Taggart, 43

The mother-of-two also has a 13-year-old son, Jayden, who hates seeing his little sister in pain.

Mrs. Taggart said, “It’s been hard on the family. It’s terrible for us to see Keavagh like this, and for her to go through it.

“Last month I had to take time off from work because it was all getting too much for me.

“We just take each day as it comes.”

Now that Keavagh is back at school, Mrs. Taggart is relieved and admits that she ‘didn’t realize then how bad it was’.

She said, “It’s night and day compared to how she is now.

“I think Keavagh was lucky she fell when she did because now she has a diagnosis. It could have taken longer and her symptoms could have been much worse.”

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