When Lynsey Hachey’s son Kaleb was 15 months old – fresh to the world of walking – he started limping. The boy’s leg was stiff each morning and he wasn’t able to stand. When their doctor spotted inflammation in the knee, so began two months of clinics, anxiety and questions.
Blood work and X-rays were ordered, and visits to two specialists in Fredericton unearthed no answers. “In the meantime, each morning we’d carry a one-and-a-half year old from the bed to the couch. It was sad to see my little boy not be able to run and play and be himself.”
In September 2010, Lynsey and Kaleb made a trip that would soon turn routine: a 5-hour drive to Halifax for the nearest pediatric rheumatologist. There, at 18 months, Kaleb was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
Kaleb needed medication and regular joint injections in his right knee and ankle. Barely a toddler for this first injection, he needed anesthesia. Afterward, Kaleb couldn’t walk for 24 hours. Doctors took a mold of his leg and he wore a brace each night.
Fast forward to kindergarten, where Kaleb is an active boy who loves gymnastics, swimming and skating. He turned six this March –coinciding with Childhood Arthritis Month. He understands the disease he must live with, and during some nights will ask his mom for a warm facecloth because his leg is in pain.
“I think how long he was hurting and walking around not being able to tell anyone,” Lynsey says. “It breaks my heart that he could be in such pain at such a young age.”
A special backpack
Lynsey is trying to settle her anxieties, preoccupied over the years with worry that Kaleb would injure himself. One thing that has helped is The Arthritis Society’s backpack program, designed for young bodies encumbered by arthritis.
“It’s an emotional relief for me. Knowing that it’s built for the weight to be relieved takes a lot off my mind that he isn’t straining when he has bad knees and ankles.”
Kaleb seems to like his new gear – which comes with a teddy bear that he sleeps with each night. They haven’t yet had to use the heating/cooling pad hidden inside it.
The mother and son continue to drive to Halifax every three months, an overnight trip that takes a toll on school and work. But Kaleb doesn’t seem to mind the excursion, as the friendly medical staff has watched him grow up from infancy. On his last trip, Kaleb brought his backpack along to show the nurses.
For now, his disease is in remission.
You can order a backpack through your child’s pediatric rheumatologist.