Arthritis Foundation

Overcoming Arthritis at Two Years Old; A Story of Charity

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Most people think of the elderly when they think of arthritis, but the 2010 Western Mass. Arthritis Walk Youth Ambassador Brianna Croteau, demonstrates that this disease touches all ages.

Brianna Croteau

Brianna Croteau, a brave little girl!

Brianna Croteau was just 2 years old when she was diagnosed as having Systemic Onset Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) affects more than 300,000 children nationwide, which is more than cystic fibrosis and juvenile diabetes combined.  Of the three kinds of JRA, Brianna was diagnosed with the most crippling form which affects only 10% of all those diagnosed.  This means she experiences pain, stiffness, and swelling in all of her joints.  Brianna struggles with every day tasks such as holding a toothbrush or buttoning her pants. To this day, doctors are still trying to determine the correct “mix” of medications to properly tame her arthritis flares. Despite all this, Brianna considers herself to be an average kid, just special in her own way.

On October 17, Brianna led “Team Bear” to the title of top fundraising team with more than 60 friends and family walking with her to find a cure and to help charity!

As youth ambassador, Brianna actively worked with the Arthritis Foundation to inform the public about the benefits of physical activity to ease the pain of arthritis or prevent some forms from developing. Let’s Move Together is an initiative of the Arthritis Foundation designed to inspire people to move every day to prevent or treat arthritis, encouraging daily physical activity for better health. Physical activity, such as walking, is crucial to managing joint pain, improving mobility and reducing fatigue often associated with arthritis.  The Arthritis Foundation is hoping that Let’s Move Together campaign and the Arthritis Walk will lead people to take action both to improve their own lives and the lives of others with arthritis. Events like the Arthritis Walk are perfect starting points for people who are committed to taking steps to improve their health and limit the impact of arthritis. In fact, walking for just 30 minutes per day can ease joint pain, improve joint mobility and reduce fatigue.

For more information about the Western MA Arthritis Walk, visit or contact the Arthritis Foundation at 800-766-9449 x 131.

Children get Arthritis, too.

Thursday, September 16th, 2010
Nate Schwitzenberg - Arthritis hero

Nate Schwitzenberg - Arthritis hero

Nate Schwitzenberg and his family are very much like any ordinary family. Sporting events, school activities and family play time consume much of their day. But the Schwitzenberg family has one added dimension to their lives, 5-year-old son Nate suffers from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. He is currently doing very well. But it took the family and his medical team about a year to get his symptoms fully under control. With help from his doctor and the Arthritis Foundation, he is now currently medication-free and fully enjoying all the typical activities for any five-year old.

Similar to most other children his age, Nate’s parents tire out well before he does. He has a passion for a variety of sports, and over the past year has played organized soccer, tennis, basketball, football, swimming, hockey and gymnastics. In addition, his full regimen of close friends and his little brother fill in any moments of rest and solace that might occur.

Challenges & Triumphs (A word from Nate’s mom)

“In many ways, the challenges presented by Nate’s diagnosis were greater for his parents than for Nate. Watching your child in pain is excruciating, but Nate simply made it impossible to lose faith for more than a few moments. The number of times he complained or let his symptoms slow him down were few and far between. Nate would sometimes simply say, “I need a break” when he pushed himself too far. He seemed to make a decision early on that he was going to choose his attitude rather than have it dictated to him by his disease. That spirit was truly infectious on those around him.

That being said, the treatments can be difficult because no six-year old really loves shots. One of the other challenges for us as a family is the number of appointments and specialists JRA has added to our lives. Nate has spent a lot of time in waiting rooms and doctor’s offices since his diagnosis and even though he realizes the importance of pro-active health, he gets frustrated with that, too.

Because of his attitude, his great medical team, and his diligence with physical therapy Nate has been doing well for the past 20 months; he is stronger, more flexible, and more body aware than he was even before the disease. Nate’s body has responded well to all types of treatment which will help him as he manages the disease in his future.

It’s probably all parents’ aspiration that their children become better people than themselves, but it’s not all parents that are able to realize that in a five year old. If anything positive has come out of Nate’s diagnosis, it is that it has presented him with the opportunity to truly demonstrate his remarkable strength of character. We draw inspiration from him every day and consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to witness his approach to life.”

Nate seems to inspire all those with whom he comes in contact. That is why the Arthritis Foundation is proud to honor him as 2010 Youth Honoree at the upcoming Chicago Jingle Bell Run. Nate and his family hope that their efforts, along with those of the Arthritis Foundation will help bring awareness to the general public and hope to those who suffer from America’s most common cause of disability!

Karrisa Leiterman

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

My name is Karissa Leiterman, I’m 6 1/2 years-old and I have Polyarticular Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. That’s a big word for JRA. Most people think only old people have arthritis, but kids get arthritis too!

When I was only 2 ½ years old, I was hurting a lot so my mom and dad took me to lots of doctors who told them it was just growing pains. Well, my parents did not agree with them and finally, after many more doctors and tests, I was diagnosed with JRA. I have arthritis in both knees, both ankles, both wrists, most of my fingers and even some of my toes. I hope one day they can cure arthritis because I want to be able to play, twirl and dance without hurting!

My doctors are 4 hours away at Duke Children’s Hospital in North Carolina because there are no pediatric rheumatologists near us. 8 hours in the car stinks and I have to miss a whole day of school just to go to the doctor’s. Yuck!

On September 11th, me and my team, “Karissa’s Crusaders,” will be walking in the 2010 Upstate Arthritis Walk. Please help support my team in any way you can. If you can’t donate financially, please join my team! I need you on my team because I want the biggest and the best team and want to walk surrounded with my family and friends! Please say you’ll join me and help battle Arthritis!