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Mikayla M., Age 10

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Mikayla M.

Mikayla is a 10-year-old fifth grader. For six years, she has been a Girl Scout and participates on the cheerleading squad. After 10 months of pain and being barely able to move, Mikayla was diagnosed with pauciarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when she was 3 years old. 

Mikayla is an advocate with the Arthritis Foundation. She has participated in and raised funds annually for the Orange County Arthritis Foundation Walk, attended the 2008 and 2009 Advocacy and Kids’ Summit in Washington, D.C., and attended the Southern California’s juvenile arthritis summer camp at the Painted Turtle. 

On March 18, 2009, Mikayla testified before the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education on behalf of the Arthritis Foundation.


My name is Mikayla [last name removed for privacy], and I live in Downey, California. I am here today on behalf of the nearly 300,000 kids like myself who have juvenile arthritis. I am 10 years old and in the 5th grade.  I was diagnosed with pauciarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when I was just 3 years old. Pauciarticular means it affects four or fewer joints and usually large joints. For me, it affects my left knee and ankle. I also am at high risk for eye inflammation and must have them checked often so I don’t become blind, which could happen. It all began when I felt a lot of pain and swelling in my neck. I couldn’t walk or run like the other kids, and I couldn’t turn my head. 

For 10 months I went to lots of different doctors to figure out what was wrong with me. Some of these doctors told my parents I must have bad growing pains or must be faking the pain and tears.  Finally, we were sent to a pediatric rheumatologist – a doctor who treats kids like me with juvenile arthritis. Dr. Starr said I had arthritis. My parents were surprised. They didn’t know, like most people, that kids got arthritis. In fact, most people don’t know that juvenile arthritis is one of the most common childhood diseases in the United States. 

People are surprised when I tell them that I have arthritis because I don’t look very different than other kids. But unlike other kids, I take a cancer drug every week plus daily medication to control my arthritis and it helps me try and lead a normal kid life. I have met other kids through the Arthritis Foundation who are not as lucky as me. The drugs don’t work for them, and they end up in a wheelchair or have to have joints replaced. In fact, juvenile arthritis is the leading cause of disability in kids. I am also lucky to be able to see a doctor who understands and can treat my disease. Kids in nine states don’t even have a single specialist to see them. 

I am here today to ask Congress to focus more attention on kids like me with arthritis. Research is the key to a cure. Research has led to newer drugs that help kids stay out of wheelchairs, but these drugs can have really bad side effects. We need a cure! Right now, the government spends $9.8 million at N.I.H. for juvenile arthritis research. That sounds like a lot of money to me but when you think of the nearly 300,000 kids that works out to be just about $32 per child. 

There is a group of pediatric rheumatologists that are working together to study and treat children with arthritis, but they need your help. With more funding and attention from Congress, more research studies can move forward to help find a cure.The Arthritis Foundation supports, at least, a doubling of juvenile arthritis research over the next few years. Also, the N.I.H. should spend more money training future doctors. Kids around the country are diagnosed too late to prevent damage – please help change this. I hope one day when I tell people I got arthritis at age 3, and they say "but kids don’t get arthritis" I can tell them "you are right – not anymore – because research has found a cure." 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. 


Mikayla M.

Mikayla is a 10-year-old fifth grader. For six years, she has been a Girl Scout and participates on the cheerleading squad. After 10 months of pain and being barely able to move, Mikayla was diagnosed with pauciarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when she was 3 years old. 

Mikayla is an advocate with the Arthritis Foundation. She has participated in and raised funds annually for the Orange County Arthritis Foundation Walk, attended the 2008 and 2009 Advocacy and Kids’ Summit in Washington, D.C., and attended the Southern California’s juvenile arthritis summer camp at the Painted Turtle. 

On March 18, 2009, Mikayla testified before the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education on behalf of the Arthritis Foundation.


My name is Mikayla [last name removed for privacy], and I live in Downey, California. I am here today on behalf of the nearly 300,000 kids like myself who have juvenile arthritis. I am 10 years old and in the 5th grade.  I was diagnosed with pauciarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when I was just 3 years old. Pauciarticular means it affects four or fewer joints and usually large joints. For me, it affects my left knee and ankle. I also am at high risk for eye inflammation and must have them checked often so I don’t become blind, which could happen. It all began when I felt a lot of pain and swelling in my neck. I couldn’t walk or run like the other kids, and I couldn’t turn my head. 

For 10 months I went to lots of different doctors to figure out what was wrong with me. Some of these doctors told my parents I must have bad growing pains or must be faking the pain and tears.  Finally, we were sent to a pediatric rheumatologist – a doctor who treats kids like me with juvenile arthritis. Dr. Starr said I had arthritis. My parents were surprised. They didn’t know, like most people, that kids got arthritis. In fact, most people don’t know that juvenile arthritis is one of the most common childhood diseases in the United States. 

People are surprised when I tell them that I have arthritis because I don’t look very different than other kids. But unlike other kids, I take a cancer drug every week plus daily medication to control my arthritis and it helps me try and lead a normal kid life. I have met other kids through the Arthritis Foundation who are not as lucky as me. The drugs don’t work for them, and they end up in a wheelchair or have to have joints replaced. In fact, juvenile arthritis is the leading cause of disability in kids. I am also lucky to be able to see a doctor who understands and can treat my disease. Kids in nine states don’t even have a single specialist to see them. 

I am here today to ask Congress to focus more attention on kids like me with arthritis. Research is the key to a cure. Research has led to newer drugs that help kids stay out of wheelchairs, but these drugs can have really bad side effects. We need a cure! Right now, the government spends $9.8 million at N.I.H. for juvenile arthritis research. That sounds like a lot of money to me but when you think of the nearly 300,000 kids that works out to be just about $32 per child. 

There is a group of pediatric rheumatologists that are working together to study and treat children with arthritis, but they need your help. With more funding and attention from Congress, more research studies can move forward to help find a cure.The Arthritis Foundation supports, at least, a doubling of juvenile arthritis research over the next few years. Also, the N.I.H. should spend more money training future doctors. Kids around the country are diagnosed too late to prevent damage – please help change this. I hope one day when I tell people I got arthritis at age 3, and they say "but kids don’t get arthritis" I can tell them "you are right – not anymore – because research has found a cure." 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. 

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