Bill’s Bad Knee ~ Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

It was the year 3001 on the planet Mars and Bill the robot was celebrating his fourth birthday with the rest of his robot family. They were sitting round a monstrous metallic table in the middle of a large modern lounge.

‘Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you…’ sang his mum, dad, grandparents and older brother. Bill beamed with brilliant joy as he caught a glimpse of the creamy cake his parents had made, decorated with candles for his special day.

‘Take a deep breath in and try to blow out all the candles!’ encouraged his mum. Bill took in a deep breath, and then blew as hard as he could and used all the air in his lungs to try to blow out the four stubborn candles. One candle down, then another, and the third, but he couldn’t quite keep the air going and had to stop and start again for the last one! Once the last candle was extinguished, everyone clapped and smiled. They were all ready to eat some of the delicious cake!

A few days after his birthday, Bill was walking in the park with his mother robot. They were in the biggest park on planet Mars, and it had a colossal climbing frame inside it. Bill went there every sunny day and loved meeting other young robots there. Today was no different from any other summer’s day. Bill spent a couple of hours swinging around the monkey bars and climbing all over the structure. When Bill was climbing down from one of the bars on the climbing frame, he felt a little sharp pain in his left knee. It was a pain that was annoying and upsetting to Bill, so he told his mum, who said, ‘don’t worry, Bill. Children robots get aches and pains all the time. I’m sure it will go away!’ Sure enough, the pain decreased a bit that evening, but it was still there, and Bill did not like it.

A couple of weeks later, Bill woke up on his first day starting school. He was so excited for starting school that he got out of bed very quickly. But as he got up to go downstairs to go for breakfast, he felt the pain in his knee again. Bill and his mum stepped out the front door in a warm early September day to make the trip down the dusty track to school. Bill’s school was just a five-minute walk down the road from his house and he was so happy to be finally starting school.  On the way there, Bill could feel the pain in his knee. As the school came into sight, the discomfort became too much he had to stop walking. His mum realised that things were not quite right. She knew she had to help Bill to get back to the house

They got into their large spaceship and flew to nearest hospital, where Bill waited to be seen by the doctor.  The doctor looked at his knees and then moved them around a bit. This was all very painful again and Bill wondered why the doctor was causing him so much pain.

He then had many tests to find out what was going on. The doctors took some blood from his arm with a needle, which Bill braved with a look of determination on his face. The doctors then took pictures of the bones inside his leg using a machine that fires out ‘X-rays’. They also did a few other tests to make sure Bill did not have anything that was really awful, by putting his leg into a machine to take some even fancier pictures! Thank fully, between all of the tests, Bill was stayed in the most amazing hospital room that had lots of toys and paintings on the wall that Bill absolutely loved! His mum stayed with him throughout it all and they were able to play with some of the toys. He was also given some medication that got rid of some of the horrible pain Bill was feeling!

The doctor came back to see Bill as he was resting in his bed with his mother holding his hand beside him. ‘I am sorry that you have been in pain and you have had to have so many tests! We think you have a problem known as ‘juvenile idiopathic arthritis’. I will take you through what that all means. Juvenile means that the problem occurs in young people, like you, who are below the age of 16. Idiopathic means that we do not know what causes this problem. And arthritis means a pain and swelling in the spaces between the bones of the body, such as in the knee or the ankle. The spaces in-between the bones are called joints, which contain some fluid as well. These joints allow movement and flexibility in your body. The joint and fluid can become angry and cause you pain, as you have been experiencing.

‘There are lots of different types of this ‘arthritis’’, he continued. ‘You have the kind called ‘oligoarticular arthritis’ that only causes problems in 1 to 4 joints in the body, and usually does not get much worse that it is now. This type may cause problems with your eyes as well, so we need to check your eyes regularly to make sure they are okay. But this problem should go away with time, which is good news!

This was all making more sense to Bill, who absorbed some of the information but was still a bit confused about what they could do to make his knee better. ‘But how am I going to get rid of the pain’, he asked the doctor.

The doctor put his hand on Bill’s shoulder and said, ‘First of all we have given you some medication to get rid of the pain, called NSAIDs. We will also get you to do some special movements and exercise and swimming, to keep the joints nice and mobile. We will also give you some other medications if we think it is necessary, which are known as DMARDs. These can be very good for getting rid of this problem, but they need a lot of watching to make sure they do not cause you any unwanted illnesses. Hopefully with all this, the problem will go away. If it doesn’t go away in the next 6 months then it may cause some longer-lasting damage to the joints in your body, which we do not want to happen, because we want you to go back to enjoying the climbing frame!

‘If it gets a lot worse or if there are other parts of your body that are painful, then you need to come back to see us as soon as possible. Also, if you get any feelings of being very hot or cold, or get a rash or lose weight or if you find you want to eat a lot less food than normal, then you need to come back to see us! This may be a sign of the problem being more serious. Other than that, you should make sure you eat good food, get to bed early to get a good amount of sleep, and that should all help.’

This all made a bit more sense to Bill, who went home from hospital the next day and was able to feel a bit better with his medication. He made sure he stuck to the doctors advice and with help from his mother, he felt a lot better over the next couple of months. The problem eventually went away and Bill was able to enjoy school and long summers playing again on the climbing frame in the park!

William Southall

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