Caitriona has juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). She spent many months trying to find a diagnosis. She experienced depression because of her sudden loss of mobility, pain and weight-gain. Arthritis Care helped Caitriona to be confident in public and she now volunteers for the charity by giving advice and talks to other young people.
Caitriona has juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). She was diagnosed when she was 13. She first started showing symptoms in 2005 after she was hospitalised for an unrelated incident (she was taken to hospital after somebody spiked her drink). She woke up the next day with a swollen ankle. The swelling would not go down. Caitriona searched for a diagnosis and spent five to six months visiting different hospitals for tests (she had blood tests, MRIs, x-rays, CT scans and DEXA scans (a test that measures the density of bone)). Doctors at the hospitals told Caitriona that she had sprained her ankle. Caitriona’s mum was told by doctors that she was play acting. Caitriona’s GP eventually diagnosed her with arthritis and he referred her to a consultant. Caitriona explained that when she was waiting for a diagnosis the arthritis spread and affected other joints, not just her ankle. Now Caitriona experiences pain and stiffness in her toes, ankles, knees, hips, and hands.
Caitriona struggled to come to terms with the diagnosis. She said that she was in denial for 2 years and said that it completely turned my world upside down. She went from being a sporty and social teenager to a young woman who could not walk or get out of the bath without help from others. Her steroid injections made her put on weight and her waist size doubled. She avoided leaving the house and became depressed and lonely. Caitriona’s parents worked closely with her rheumatologist and Arthritis Care and, over time, Caitriona came out of her shell and started enjoying life more. She went away for a weekend organised by Arthritis Care. She spent time with other young people with arthritis and attended various workshops about arthritis. This made Caitriona realise that she was not alone. Caitriona gained confidence and started interacting with other people more. She now volunteers for Arthritis Care and often gives talks to young people with arthritis and helps run workshops.
At the time of the interview Caitriona was experiencing a flare up. The pain Caitriona feels during a flare up is different to the pain she feels on a day to day basis. Caitriona said that the pain she feels on a day-to-day basis is a numb pain which I describe as a growing pain. It’s like inside the bones, one that you can’t really get rid of. When she has a flare up, Caitriona describes her pain as a sharp kind of stabbing pain which isn’t very nice ‚ you can’t get over it, that’s when you know you have to go to the doctors to get injections etc.. During the interview Caitriona said that her ankle was causing her the most discomfort. It was big, puffy, very tender, sore to walk on [and] hot. She also had limited movement in her hips and felt pain if she moved too quickly. Caitriona often has flare ups in wet weather. She feels her joints throbbing with pain. Caitriona jokes and says that her body knows when it is going to rain because she feels the pain before the rain comes.
Caitriona is studying Law and Politics at university. The university gives her lots of help such as extra breaks, extended deadlines and Livescribe to help her take notes.