Imagine waking up each day feeling like you’re suffering from the flu, with a rash all over your body and intense pain in your legs and feet. That’s what life can be like for the 10-year-old Katie Chipman, daughter of Kim Chipman, PharmD, remote pharmacist at Nebraska Medicine.
Katie suffers from an illness called Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis – Systemic Onset. It’s an auto-inflammatory disorder formerly known as Still’s disease. Only some 5 percent of people suffer from Katie’s subtype of arthritis. It took doctors nearly six months to diagnosis Katie from the onset of symptoms, which happened midway through her kindergarten year.
“She started getting this funny rash that would come and go,” remembers Kim. “Then she became sick, with what we thought was the flu.”
For weeks, doctors believed it was simply a virus. But as her fever got worse, which at one point topped out at 106.8, and her rash and her pain worsened, Kim and her husband, Todd, pressed doctors for an answer.
“Katie’s primary care doctor was digging to find out what was going on,” says Kim. “She said ‘I don’t know what this is but I’m going to figure this out.’”
That’s when the diagnosis came. Katie was treated with steroids to get her condition under control. After years of experimenting with treatment options, the family has discovered the only thing that relieves her symptoms is an infusion of medication very two weeks at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.
“Without this medication, Katie cannot function,” says Kim. “She can’t be a normal kid. We’re very fortunate this medication is covered by our insurance, but unfortunately, that’s not the case for all families.”
That’s why Kim and her family are so passionate about raising money for research and the Arthritis Foundation.
“When Katie was diagnosed, this medication was not on the market,” she says. “It’s changed her quality of life and it’s allowed her to stay active. It’s a disease that flares and can reoccur suddenly.”
When the flares happen, Katie must be treated with steroids to bring it under control.
“This past flare, she gained 30 pounds because of the prednisone,” says Kim. “When you are 10 years old, it’s tough. There are days she can’t do what her friends can do, trapped in this body she has no control of. While the physical symptoms have been manageable, the emotional aspect has been the greater challenge lately.”
Katie has been chosen to serve as the honoree for this year’s Arthritis Walk, happening May 23 in Stinson Park at Aksarben Village.
“It a family event that’s really fun,” says Kim. “It’s a carnival theme. The kids always have a great time. The foundation has been a great support to us. It’s hard to be a kid when you feel 90 years old in the morning.”
You can register to join Katie’s crew or just show up at the event.
“Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in America,” notes Kim. “There are 300,000 kids suffering from arthritis today in America. We need to find a cure.”