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Childhood stolen by juvenile arthritis

Childhood stolen by juvenile arthritis
Photo: Childhood stolen by juvenile arthritis
Anni Grindrod was stricken with arthritis when she eight years old. She is one of 6000 Australians whose childhoods are blighted by the disease.

For Anni Grindrod it started at the age of eight, when her parents rushed her to hospital emergency with excruciating hip pain.

Over the following weeks her fingers swelled to the size of sausages, and she suffered severe neck pain and fevers.

"The doctors didn't know what to make of it," the now 21-year-old says.

Eventually doctors diagnosed her with juvenile arthritis - a condition estimated to affect 6000 children in Australia.

"It was a horrible time for a child to go through," she said.
"To know what it was like to be a child and then to suddenly no longer be a child because of the physical pain and mental hardships that I had to go through."

Arthritis Australia on Monday launched a campaign to raise awareness of childhood arthritis - which it says is as common as juvenile diabetes.

The health group wants better paediatric training for the disease, with early diagnosis key to limiting long-term damage on children's joints.

It says the debilitating condition severely affects a young person's life, with poorer educational outcomes and vocational outcomes, and higher rates of unemployment.

Ms Grindrod spent three years in a wheelchair, making a typical childhood impossible.

The frustration of not being able to write with a pen or play sport was compounded by people's ignorance of juvenile arthritis.

"When I was a child a lot of my friends didn't believe me," she said.

"I'd love a dollar for every time (they said) I thought only old people got that."

But the university student still struggles with the disease, and complains that because she has learned to manage the pain her suffering is invisible.

"Looking at me, I'm just a normal 21-year-old, but no-one knows that this morning I needed painkillers to get out of bed," she said.

"That I have to take injections once a week, and a handful of medications every night just to be able to get through the day."

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