WHEN Kyrun Spraggs was eight years old and came home from school limping, his mum thought he had just injured himself during a game of football.
But when he started to lose weight and came out in a rash, she knew something was not right. After three weeks in hospital and numerous tests, Kyrun and his family were given shocking and unexpected news – he had arthritis.
‘We couldn’t believe it,’ says mum Kirstine Blake.
‘Arthritis isn’t something you expect children to get. It’s something you think of getting when you’re older. I was absolutely heartbroken and devastated when we heard.’
Before Kyrun’s diagnosis, he had been like any other healthy, active little boy. But from that moment on, everything changed.
‘In the early days, he was bedridden because he was in so much pain,’ says Kirstine, of Blendworth Crescent, Havant.
‘I was pushing him round in a pushchair for six months. I had to lift him into the bath to wash him and get him out again. It was like having a little baby again.
‘It’s been an uphill struggle from then. He’s on a lot of medication, but he’s in constant pain all through the day and night.’
Kyrun’s arthritis has got so bad that last July, a week before his 15th birthday, the youngster had to have a hip replacement. Next month, he will have a second hip replacement.
He uses crutches to get around and has a wheelchair, but refuses to use it as he sees it as being the ultimate sign of giving in to his condition.
But Kyrun, now 15, admits arthritis has changed his life and it’s a difficult disease to come to terms with.
‘It is hard living with arthritis,’ says the youngster.
‘It stops you from doing things. I used to be really active and wanted to go into the RAF. Now I can’t.
I don’t go to school, I have home tutoring instead.’
He adds: ‘I’m in constant pain and it’s a pain that is hard to explain to people. With my hip, it’s like a grinding sensation because there’s no cartilage there.
‘Arthritis also makes you really tired. I feel so tired all the time. The most I can do, when I have the energy, is help my mum make dinner.’
The reality of having a hip replacement at 14 has also been hard to come to terms with.
He adds: ‘It is strange to think I had one so young and I don’t know anyone else who’s had one my age.
‘I go on a forum for people with arthritis and I’ve not come across anyone else as young.
‘I also know I’ve got to have another one, which I knew. But I just didn’t know it would be this soon.’
Kyrun is one of many youngsters living with arthritis. In fact the disease affects one in 1,000 children in the UK.
GROWING PAINS, THEY SAID, BUT TRUE DIAGNOSIS WAS A SHOCK
LUKE Gosling was as active as they come. He played rugby for Gosport and Fareham, used to do field gun with the navy cadets and was hoping to go into the Royal Marines.
But when he was 13, everything changed. He started to experience pain around his body, which doctors at first thought were growing pains.
But when Luke became so tired he was sleeping all the time, and was off his food, he was sent for further tests.
It was then he was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
‘It was a massive shock being told I had arthritis. I never knew people of my age could get it ,’ says Luke, now 16, of Rothesay Road, Gosport.
‘It’s been hard coming to terms with having it. Before I was really active and was going out with my friends all the time. When I was diagnosed I went downhill and didn’t go out much.’
He adds: ‘I’m still heartbroken about my career. I really wanted to go into the marines, but then this happened. Now I’ve learned to live with it and I’m out almost every night.
‘It’s quite difficult at times, but I do live with it and try not to think I’ve got it. I try to ignore it and forget about it. It’s just life for me now.’
Luke gets constant pain in his ankle and the odd pain in his knees and wrists. When it becomes really bad, he can be admitted to hospital and has even had to have blood transfusions in the past.
But Luke, who now works in the kitchens at the Inn by the Sea in Lee-on-the-Solent, doesn’t want any sympathy.
He says: ‘I want people to look at me like a normal lad. I don’t want sympathy. I know it’s strange that I’m young and I’ve got arthritis but young people do get it. There needs to be more awareness about it really.’
ARTHRITIS: THE FACTS
• Arthritis affects one in 1,000 children in the UK and can begin at any age.
• Most kinds of childhood arthritis comes under the general heading of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).
• JIA involves inflammation, pain and swelling in one or more joints for at least six weeks. It’s often referred to as juvenile arthritis. The causes are unknown.
• The outlook for most children with JIA is good. Although some children will develop joint damage, the majority get better and grow up to lead ordinary lives.
• Common symptoms of juvenile arthritis include – pain, swelling, tenderness and stiffness of joints, causing limited range of motion; joint contracture, which results from holding a painful joint in a flexed position for an extended period; damage to joint cartilage and bone leading to joint deformity and impaired use of the joint and altered growth of bone and joints leading to short stature.