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(131,683 posts)
Fri Feb 1, 2013, 06:50 PM Feb 2013

The Boy With a Thorn in His Joints [View all]

Last edited Sun Feb 3, 2013, 02:26 PM - Edit history (1)

'When my son, Shepherd, was 3 years old, he and his twin brother, Beau, took soccer lessons for the first time. They were so excited that they slept in their uniforms — a purple T-shirt with a yellow star kicking the ball with one of its points — the night before their first practice. But when we got to the field the next day, Shepherd’s enthusiasm evaporated. While Beau and the other kids ran zigzags around the cones, Shepherd stood still and looked bewildered. When it was his turn to kick the ball, he seemed lost. After 15 minutes, he walked off the field and sat down in my lap, saying he was too tired to play. We watched the other kids, and I pointed out to him the drills I thought he might enjoy, the ones that Beau was charging through. But he refused to go back to the field. His passivity didn’t concern me much — he was 3, after all, and I already thought of him, in the way that parents tend to categorize their children even as we tell ourselves we shouldn’t, as a little clingy and not especially athletic. My husband, Darin, and I had recently noticed that Shepherd occasionally walked with a limp, but it was faint enough that sometimes when you looked for it, it was gone. Faint enough — though it seems incredible now — that we didn’t connect it to his reluctance on the field. . .

We went to see Philip Kahn, a pediatric rheumatologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, who gave Shepherd a diagnosis of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (J.I.A.), an autoimmune disease that causes painful swelling in the joints. J.I.A. can lead to stunted growth, disability and, rarely, blindness. . .

Before we hung up, she mentioned that her sister-in-law had a friend who sent her own son’s arthritis into remission with alternative medicine. Her name was Char Walker, short for Charlotte. Did I want to talk to her? I told her that I didn’t, that we liked Dr. Kahn and wanted to follow his advice for now. We were starting Shepherd on a course of naproxen, a relative of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory ibuprofen. We didn’t want to mess around with something that might not work, when conventional treatments were known to be effective. What I thought that day but didn’t say to Rae was, We don’t want to waste time talking to a kook. . .

I heard back from Elena Ladas, the complementary-medicine researcher Dr. Imundo passed me off to. Her message was simple and direct. Yes, she said of Walker’s regimen, if it seems to be helping, keep going. We weren’t fools after all, I thought. That short phone call was the thing that got us all to the finish line. . .

At six weeks — to the day — Shepherd woke up and, for the first time in months, got out of bed himself. I’d gone into his room to help, as I did every morning, and found him standing in his pajamas. “Mommy,” he said, “my knees don’t hurt anymore.” He was probably wearing the pajamas with the skateboarding monkeys. Beau was probably groggy, still in bed. Honestly, I really don’t know. When I think of it, there’s only Shepherd, standing there, not crying. I was too stunned to say anything back before he scampered out to the kitchen for breakfast. Within several months his arthritis pain was gone.'


Edited for copyright reasons.

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