Jessie Riojas, age 8, has always been a very happy and active child. She has always kept her mom and dad on their toes. She has been active in swimming since the early age of 18 months and gymnastics since the age of 2.
In January of 2017, when Jessie was just 3, her father and mother noticed her right knee starting to swell, and by the end of February 2017, it was noticeably larger than her left knee (about 2x the normal size). One morning in early March 2017, Jess had trouble getting out of bed and walking down the hallway. This was something that Jessie usually did at top speed every morning, but this particular morning, Jessie used the wainscotting trim to help her get where she wanted to go. It was then that her parents, Mark and Jacquie Riojas, knew something serious was going on. They contacted her pediatrician and were told to bring Jess in as soon as possible. The next couple of weeks were full of doctor appointments, exams, tests, and labs. On April 3, 2017, Jessie was given the diagnosis of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis? What is that?
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (or JRA for short), affecting approximately 300,000 kids in the US, can cause the immune system to mistake healthy cells and tissues as foreign substances, causing inflammation. The disease ranges in severity and can lead to serious joint issues and uveitis, a dangerous inflammation of the eyes that can cause blindness. There is currently no cure, but there are medications that help reduce symptoms.
After consulting with their Rheumatologist, Jessie was given a series of steroid injections in hopes of getting the inflammation under control without having to begin other types of medication. Unfortunately, after two rounds of steroid injections, the inflammation was still there. It was after the steroid injections that Jess began multiple medications to help control the inflammation, including three different types of eye drops, four times a day because she was also diagnosed with uveitis. Despite Jessie being on so many different types of medication for her arthritis, she never skipped a beat, remaining so positive and active during such a trying time. What a little warrior she was!
In August of 2020, after being on medications for more than three years, Jess was pronounced in remission and was able to come off of all medications. Although Jessie was in remission, it did not guarantee another flareup from occurring.
In May of 2021, Jess yet again received the news that she was in another flare with JRA. This time the arthritis was back in both of her knees as well as her eyes, causing swelling and inflammation once again. She was immediately put back on medication for both.
As of today, February 9, 2022, Jessie is in medication remission. This means that there is no sign of active arthritis, but she is still currently taking daily/weekly medications to help keep the arthritis under control.
This has been a long and winding road, but through it all, Jessie continues to smile. She is still involved in gymnastics and loves to swim. She also plays basketball and runs 3 miles with her dad any chance they get.
Jess is an eight-year-old JRA warrior. Her family prays daily for a cure for JRA, but until then, they will continue to fight and spread awareness for Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Don’t Stop Believing……In A Cure!