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Anna-Florence
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
Youth Honoree


At 13 years old, Anna-Florence knows more about medical terminology and procedures than most adults. She was born with an immune deficiency and was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) in her jaw when she was 6 years old.

 

Anna-Florence struggled with JRA for more than a year before it was correctly diagnosed. She would get a headache that would literally change her facial appearance. At times the pain was so bad she could not walk or lift herself out of bed. After extensive testing and imaging she was placed on intravenous medications to help control the pain and prevent permanent damage. By this time Anna-Florence had already missed more than 80 days of school that year and now, because of the toll walking to class takes, she is home schooled.

 

Anna-Florence is on weekly injections as well as oral medication to help control her JRA. She also uses a heating pad and "arthritis bear" - a teddy bear that was provided by the Arthritis Foundation and can be heated and placed on painful joints. Her other regimens include water therapy, physical therapy, yoga and of course, the companionship of her little dog, Max.

 

"Kids with JRA might look pretty normal on the outside," said Anna-Florence. "Because of this, people do not know the silent struggle you have. They can't see the pain or frustration and may not be so understanding."

 

Camp MASH is a place where Anna-Florence has found friendship and refuge. Designed for children with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, this camp provides the opportunity to build self esteem and confidence while meeting and building lifelong relationships with other kids.

 

Like most kids who have arthritis, Anna-Florence is a warrior and champion. Her veins are blown and scarred from many blood draws and IVs. She is so accustomed to a multitude of tests that she now naps through MRI tests and knows that a CAT scan takes the shortest amount of time. Yet through it all, she pushes herself beyond limits more than most people will ever know.

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