A mum was left ‘terrified’ when her six-year-old daughter received a shock diagnosis after falling over at a birthday party.
Leeanne Taggart, from Glasgow, ‘never thought much of it’ when her daughter, Keavagh, took a tumble at the first birthday party in August 2022. The little one got up quickly and carried on playing with friends.
But weeks later, Keavagh continued to experience pain and received the shock diagnosis of juvenile idiopathic arthritis, a rare form of the condition that left her unable to walk without crutches.
‘It was a lonely place to be because I’d never heard of a child having arthritis before,’ mum Leeanne said.
‘It’s something you just automatically associate with older people, not kids.’
At first, the fall didn’t seem like a big deal, but the next day, Keavagh said her knee was still hurting and it looked very swollen.
‘We just assumed she’d sprained or twisted it, so we took her to A&E where she had an X-ray,’ said Leeanne.
‘They found fluid around her knee, so gave her some painkillers and told us that a physio would be in touch. However, within two weeks, it had become so much worse and Keavagh couldn’t walk and wasn’t eating, so she lost so much weight.
‘There was a lot of back and forth to the hospital, but we eventually got an MRI for Keavagh, as well as a face-to-face appointment with a physiotherapist who referred to her rheumatology.’
By October, Keavagh received the diagnosis of juvenile idiopathic arthritis, which Leeanne says impacts around one in 1,000 children.
‘All I could think was, how can my six-year-old have arthritis? I made the mistake of googling it and came across lots of horror stories,’ she said. ‘It was terrifying.’
Keavagh had to take time off school and temporarily quit her favourite hobbies of dance, swimming and gymnastics.
Things started to improve when she began having cortisone injections into her knees and ankles, but when doctors said she also needed a weekly injection in her thigh – something the little one hated – appointments started leaving her with anxiety. She would even be sick.
Now though, she’s on a liquid form of the medication, and mum Leeanne says that Keavagh ‘is doing well at the moment’. However, since it’s an autoimmune disease, her condition could take a turn at any point.
‘We’re just taking each day as it comes,’ said the mum-of-two, who also has a 13-year-old son, Jayden.
‘She’s back at school, dancing, swimming, and doing gymnastics, which is amazing, as I was worried whether she would be able to do all this ever again. She’s back doing what she loves.’
The mum also thinks her little girl was ‘lucky’ to have that life-changing fall, which alerted them to her symptoms.
‘It could have gone on for longer and her symptoms could have become much worse,’ she said.
‘We couldn’t have got through all of this without the amazing charity, SNAC – the Scottish Network for Arthritis in Children – they have been such incredible support for us. They also let Keavagh know that she’s not alone in her condition and she also gets to meet other kids with JIA.’
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