Lori Maynard learned last year that her daughter had rheumatoid arthritis. The diagnosis followed “about three months of rapid degenerative illness,” said Maynard in a telephone interview from her New Jersey home.
A National Institutes of Health website defines rheumatoid arthritis as a chronic autoimmune disease causing inflammation of the joints and neighboring tissues. Wrists, fingers, feet, ankles, and knees are most commonly affected. The onset usually occurs in people between ages twenty-five and fifty-five.
Said Maynard of her then 11-year-old daughter, “Emily got sick around Thanksgiving 2005 and her wrist started hurting. She wore bandages to support her wrists while she played. We thought it was just growing pains. Then in December she woke up in the night screaming because both her feet were in excruciating pain.”
In January 2006, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon diagnosed her with plantar fasciitis, a common foot ailment, even though Maynard had said her deceased father had rheumatoid arthritis.
A week later at a swimming lesson, Maynard noticed her daughter walking oddly. “Her strange limp reminded me so much of the way my dad used to walk,” said Maynard.
Fortunately, Maynard’s brother-in-law was an orthopedic surgeon and within a month he would diagnose Emily with rheumatoid arthritis. Immediately, Emily was put on a steroid, which helped her walk, and later she began a chemotherapy treatment approved for people with rheumatoid arthritis.
“Emily’s diagnosis made me completely afraid,” said Maynard. “My father was diagnosed at twenty-two and spent a year in the hospital. I was born when he was thirty-six, and by then his hands and feet were bent and deformed, and his elbows locked at a ninety-degree angle. Because of the steroid, eventually he lost bone density, and in his sixties his spine began collapsing before he died.”
After hearing her daughter’s diagnosis, Maynard would cry for nights. Emily was hurting every hour of every day.
Today Maynard’s mood is more upbeat. “For one, new medications have made her prognosis so much better than my dad’s,” she said. “The progression of the disease has been halted. Secondly, Emily has discovered she has a gifted singing voice. She began voice lessons and when she sings she forgets the pain.”
She added, “I feel for parents who have sick kids. Every parent wants their child to do great things. I now have that hope again for Emily.”