Together with extended family and friends, the Stipanovics have been part of the Walk to Fight Arthritis for the last three years. In 2016, Team Matthew earned top prize for team and adult fundraising.
Matthew, age 13, was diagnosed with polyarticular juvenile arthritis (JA) at 18 months of age.
He was two and a half years old before he could run.
Biologics allowed Matthew to be an active toddler, although his initial JA flare permanently affected range of movement in both knees.
At age four, Matthew was diagnosed with uveitis (inflammation of the eye), an associated condition for some children with JA.
At six years of age, he had cataract surgery to remove the lens in his right eye and now wears a contact lens in its place. He has endured 12 surgeries to his joints and eyes.
Treatments for Matthew’s JA compromise his immune system. In 2015, he contracted strep throat and had to stop his JA medications to fight the infection.
The resulting flare kept him from school for a month, barely able to move.
“Our family is in a constant state of stress,” admits Ana, Matthew’s mother. “JA takes a tremendous emotional and financial toll on our household.”
Ana made the difficult decision to work part-time, limiting her career choices, advancement, and earnings.
In addition to caring for Matthew’s brother and sister, Ana looks after administering eye drops, oral medications, and needles, attending clinic appointments for doctors, specialists, infusions, and physical and occupational therapy.
“We spend so much time scheduling and managing JA treatments that there are few moments to spare for social outings or extracurricular activities.”
Matthew says, “I want people to know that living with JA is very hard for me, and my family. I have a positive attitude and do the best I can and never give up.”
“Matthew likes to swim, play guitar, play sports (as he is able) and play with his Lego”, says Ana.
“He also loves the dramatic arts. He is an exemplary student who is particularly strong in math and science. He hopes to use his gifts to help others one day, maybe in the field of biomedical engineering.”
“The Stipanovics are true arthritis heroes,” says Donna Wills, Regional Manager for Manitoba/Nunavut.
“We are so grateful for their leadership in the Wawanesa Winnipeg Walk to Fight Arthritis, and for sharing their JA experience.”
Do you have an arthritis hero in your life? Celebrate their will to live well with arthritis by starting a team for the Walk to Fight Arthritis or make a donation in their name to support Team Matthew at