You would never know by watching Kyle Elmore’s backhand shot that the 14-year-old athlete from Iowa has polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). Kyle was diagnosed with JIA two years ago, but he decided that he was not going to let arthritis stop him from doing what he loves.
The Elmore family’s journey to a diagnosis was long and frustrating. “I remember experiencing a lot of pain in my knees and ankles, especially in the morning,” says Kyle. “My knees were so swollen that you couldn’t see my knee caps!”
After six months of inconclusive lab tests and many visits to specialists, Kyle and his family went to see a pediatric rheumatologist. There’s only 350 pediatric rheumatologists in the US to serve an estimated 300,000 kids who have arthritis. Unfortunately, none were in the Elmore family’s immediate area, so they drove two hours to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital (ICH)in Iowa City.
Upon seeing a pediatric rheumatologist at ICH, Kyle was immediately diagnosed with JIA. They finally had answers, but Kyle and his family also had many questions. “The news was really hard to hear,” says Kyle. They were uncertain if Kyle would be able to play sports again, he had to put his love of baseball and tennis on hold in order to get his arthritis under control.
Kyle started a treatment plan to prevent permanent damage to his joints and help manage his pain. “The medications really help reduce the pain and swelling so that I can function,” says Kyle. “I hate the shots, but I decided that the shots are better than the pain I had when I was not taking the medications.” Within a few weeks, Kyle was able to participate in baseball again, and, within the following year, he was back on the tennis court.
Now that Kyle’s arthritis is under control, he has been sharing his story to raise awareness about this debilitating disease. Recently, Kyle gave a presentation about juvenile arthritis to 700 of his classmates at Indian Hills Junior High School. “The support from the community has been amazing,” says Kyle’s mom, Ellen. “This year Kyle decided he wanted to do more, so we registered our team for the Walk to Cure Arthritis like last year, but this year Kyle also promoted it at his school and at church.”
Kyle’s team, Kyle’s Crusaders, has raised more than $10,000 in the past year. “People are surprised when I tell them that I have arthritis,” says Kyle. “I want to share my story and raise awareness.”
Kyle will be a freshman in high school this fall and is planning to continue playing tennis. He has demonstrated what it means to be a Champion of Yes and he continues to advocate for awareness and a cure.
To learn more about juvenile arthritis, visit www.kgat.org