By Melanie Patterson
The North Jefferson News
Most people do not think about children when it comes to arthritis.
Neither did Steve and Kim Warren of Fultondale. That is, not until their 2-year-old daughter Bailey was diagnosed last year with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA). They had never heard of it.
The family knows that many people do not know children can get arthritis, so they’re fighting to raise awareness and funds for research and a cure.
The Warrens formed a team called Bailey’s Buddies to walk in the Arthritis Foundation’s Arthritis Walk on May 10 at Lakeshore Walking Trail, 600 University Park Place near Samford University.
Friends and family will walk in honor of Bailey, who is now 3.
Bailey’s diagnosis came last year after she woke up with a red, swollen knee.
Kim Warren figured her daughter had simply fallen, so she took her to the pediatrician.
The doctor took a look and ordered blood work, which surprised Warren. He then sent Bailey to an orthopedic surgeon.
What followed was a painful drawing of fluid off of Bailey’s knee, and then surgery, a three-day stay in the hospital, and finally the diagnosis of JRA.
The news kept getting worse for the Warrens.
Bailey’s doctor told them that JRA can cause vision problems, and even blindness.
When they took her to the eye doctor, the disease had indeed begun to affect the child’s eyes.
When eye drops didn’t help, Bailey began to receive Remicade treatments, which are four- to six-hour treatments at the hospital through an IV.
She also gets Methotrexate shots once a week.
“She hates these and so do we,” said Warren. She said that both drugs are listed as chemotherapy drugs, and that Remicade is not FDA approved for children. So she fears the possible side effects.
Despite the severity of Bailey’s illness, Warren said that you would never know on some days that Bailey has this disease.
“You never know waking up when she’s going to have a good day and when she’s going to have a bad day,” said Warren.
“Sometimes she’s just a 110-percent pure little girl,” she said. “She’ll go days when you wouldn’t think anything is wrong. It’s unbelievable this is going on inside her body when she looks so healthy on the outside.”
At other times, Bailey and her family are all too aware of her illness.
There was a recent scare when Bailey had a high fever for two nights in a row. Tests showed that her white blood count was at 30,000. A normal count is 10,000.
That was scary because JRA is an autoimmune sickness.
“Normally, white blood cells go after a cold or flu,” said Warren. “With this type of disease, they don’t know when to shut off. It destroys joints and tissues in her body.”
Warren said she considers JRA a “kind of a silent, horrible disease” because it is very destructive if it goes undiagnosed and untreated.
“When a child’s knee or knuckle hurts, don’t assume it’s just a bug bite,” she said. “You have to know what to look for.”
Bailey’s family does not know how long she will suffer from JRA.
“We’ve heard that some kids can outgrow it,” said Warren. “But doctors don’t give us any kind of hope yet.”
She said that doctors do not consider children in remission until they have been symptom-free and off their medications for two years.
The Warrens moved to Fultondale four years ago when Steve was transferred with his job at Lowe’s.
Kim is from Virginia. Her mother, Bonnie Hott, and sister, Barbie Thompson, are traveling from Virginia to participate in the Arthritis Walk on May 10.
Kim’s older daughters, Whitney Ritter, 18, and Taylor Ritter, 14, also live in Virginia.
To read more about Bailey and to see photos of her and her family, go to http://thewarrens-baileysmama.blogspot.com/.
There is a link on that page that leads to the Arthritis Walk. The team Bailey’s Buddies welcomes more members, and also welcomes donations. Donations may be made on the Web site.