Arthritis

Charlotte Z

Female
Age at interview: 17
Age at diagnosis: 16

Brief outline: Charlotte has juvenile idiopathic arthritis polyarticular with a rheumatoid factor positive. When she was at her worse she was in lots of pain and struggled with depression. Her medication helps take the edge off the pain and she finds happiness in helping others with the condition.

Background: Charlotte is a student at college studying a BTEC in Forensic Sciences. She is white British.

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Charlotte has juvenile idiopathic arthritis polyarticular with a rheumatoid factor positive. She is on methotrexate and Enbrel (etanercept) injections and has three injections a week to control her arthritis. She is also on prednisolone steroids. She takes paracetamol, naproxen and tramadol for the pain and inflammation. To protect her stomach from the side effects of the medication she takes folic acid and omeprazole.
 
Charlotte first started experiencing symptoms in the morning. She struggled to perform basic tasks such as walking and opening milk bottles. Charlotte was learning to box at the time and kept the pain a secret because she was worried that her house mistress at boarding school would not allow her continue training. Within a short space of time the arthritis progressed and Charlotte began to experience pain and swelling in all of her joints. For example, her feet would not fit in her shoes, her knees were larger than normal and she had “sausage fingers”. She struggled to yawn and eat because her jaw was swollen. Charlotte was forced to stop boxing because she was in pain all day and not just in the morning.
 
Charlotte went to see the GP with her mum. The GP suspected that Charlotte had loose ligaments and growing pains and prescribed painkillers. The painkillers did not work and Charlotte had strong suspicions that there was a more serious problem. Charlotte and her mum made an appointment to see a different GP who referred her to the rheumatologist. Charlotte’s condition got worse before she saw the rheumatologist and she went to the hospital’s accident and emergency department several times with the pain.  Each time she was prescribed different painkillers which did not work. Eventually Charlotte was seen by a rheumatologist who was quick to offer a diagnosis and admit her to hospital for steroid infusion and further tests.
 
Charlotte’s current medication has helped with the pain and reduced swelling. Before being on the medication the pain made Charlotte feel sick and she had restricted mobility. Now she is in constant pain but it is not so severe unless she has a flare up. Charlotte is very happy with the treatment she is receiving at the specialist arthritis clinic and has access to a range of specialists including a psychologist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist and clinical staff.
 
Charlotte has battled with depression since being diagnosed. She describes herself as “reaching rock bottom” and wanted to die than live in pain. Her occupational therapist and psychologist have helped her feel better about herself by listening to her and suggesting coping strategies. For example, Charlotte was told that it was okay to tell others how she felt, and that she may feel better if she could help others in the same situation as her. Charlotte now tweets and blogs and provides emotional support and information to others. Charlotte also reflects about that those who are in a worse position than she is. 

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