Teen living with juvenile arthritis shares message of strength

July is juvenile arthritis awareness month
Published: Jul. 8, 2020 at 4:22 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - July is juvenile arthritis awareness month.

Even though the pandemic has canceled many events aimed at raising money for research, one brave teenager is sharing her story to raise awareness.

Along with keeping up with her new puppy, 13-year-old Lily Laurent loves to draw.

"Art was something I could do no matter how my legs were feeling," said Laurent. "It's stress relieving."

"One night when drying her off from the bath, we noticed her knee was swollen and it literally happened overnight, the day before it wasn't there," said Anne Laurent, Lily's mom. "When she got up in the morning, she couldn't stand up straight from her bed and she would get fatigued a lot quicker."

“Kids get bumps and bruises all the time but if you start to see your child limping, prolonged stiffness in the morning, the walk like an old man or lady, swelling of the knee and it’s red and warm? Those are inflammation signs and symptoms that could point to this,” said Dr. Paul Tuttle, a rheumatologist at Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Specialists (OSMS).

Juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks itself.

"It primarily affects joints, so Lily has had a lot of autoimmune disease in her joints, inflammation in her joints from her body attacking those parts of her body," said Dr. Tuttle.

While in Kindergarten, Laurent started treatment in hopes of finding something to help with the pain. It's not curable, but it is treatable.

“I remember waking up in hospital rooms and being poked with needles,” said Laurent. “I would always ask my mom why I had to go through all the pain and anxiety for treatments and stuff if I wasn’t feeling better and it wasn’t working.”

However, within the past few months, Dr. Tuttle and his team at OSMS found something that helps with Laurent's pain.

"Lily is on a biologic, a medication to help dampen the inflammation," said Dr. Tuttle.

Along with medication, Laurent gets an infusion every 8 weeks.

"Our goal is not a cure. It's remission which means the body is no longer attacking itself with the use of a medication," said Dr. Tuttle. "So you can think of this autoimmune attacking itself like friendly fire. We are trying to stop the body from doing this friendly fire by using different medications to dampen excess inflammation."

"Technically about a month ago we had labs drawn and for the first time in 2 years, all of your inflammation labs came back normal, so I would say technically she is in medical remission," said Laurent's mom.

“I would want to let all kids newly diagnosed with it to know they are not alone and there are 300,000 kids in the U.S. who have it and it eventually will get better,” said Laurent.

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