Sarah Hammond was diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis at 18 months of age.
Her parents noticed she had regressed to “bum-shuffling” after a short period of walking.
After visiting four different specialists, it was found Juvenile Arthritis had caused the regression.
It meant that I was finding a easier and less painful way to get around while I was young. This diagnoses also showed to my parents that I didn’t spend hours of crying a screaming for no reason, it was in fact due to uncontrollable pain.
Here began a moment of a life full of hospital visits, operation, injections and endless medications searching for a cure and end to her pain.
Pushing through and adapting to daily pain and stiffness became the biggest part of Sarah’s life. There was a mixture of medications that soon lead to side effects of ulcerate and destroying of the stomach lining. It was at this time that she was supposed to be having her joints injected for Arthritis swelling and pain release but instead at age seven almost drowned in her own blood after uncontrollably vomiting during this fairly regular operation.
By the age of nine she had seen more specialists than most would see in a lifetime with too many days of school missed, social activities missed out on and medication just to keep her alive.
By the age of 9 years old the Juvenile Arthritis had spread to her right eye. This condition is called Uveitis which after years of medication trial and error her vision was lost all due to a cataract and Arthritis infected pupil within the eye. Surgery had become the last option but not without side effects. The biggest side effect would be that the Arthritis could attack the left eye, but a decision had to be made as a little 11 year old Sarah could not live the rest of her life like this. Surgery went ahead and her sight was returned but only temporarily. Every four weeks for years Sarah would undergo operations for eye injections and laser treatments with the constant eye drop medications 1 to 4 hours. Once again this couldn’t go on forever and she soon discovered that there’s no cure for Uveitis and her sight may never return.
While this was all happening the Arthritis decided to attack another joint. By 12 years old pretty much every joint in Sarah’s body had some form of Arthritis. It was her usual weekly swimming lesson and after exiting the pool she felt a sharp pain in her right hip. Now living a daily life with pain, you don’t think much when this type of experience happens. After many physio appointments and misdiagnoses, the Juvenile Arthritis had made the right hip inflamed. This causing extreme pain, stiffness and causing her to live the next three years with the aid of a wheel chair. At the time there was no higher pain relief for Sarah and the medication she had been given was not enough. In this time Osteoporosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis developed along with bone spurs and cartridge loss. Her weighted ballooned to 90kg, her hair thinned and feel out all because of medication that was supposed to be helping her.
This all happened in her early teenage years resulting in loss of vital academic learning and social interactions. No one wanted to be friends with the girl in the wheel chair resulting in it being harder for Sarah to make any friends as they didn’t understand why she was the way she was. She was placed on a trial medication Enbrel and after one dose was able to walk!
As she became older and changed from one medication to another she was diagnosed with medical induced Lupus. This meant that she was even more fatigued, restless and had more stiffness in her joints. To counteract this she began weight training. She found that the resistance was the key to removing most of the stiffness from her problem joints. To this day you’ll find Sarah up before the sun, unstiffening her joints in the hope for a better day with her Arthritis.
Gaining employment was a struggle due to the misunderstandings regarding Juvenile Arthritis all due to the lack of awareness. It was from this that she decided to start her own Health and Fitness Business where for many years she changed peoples lives through health and fitness.
Back in 2014 Sarah felt confident and supported enough to speak out about her life living with Juvenile Arthritis and began Kids Arthritis. It takes a lot to start something new and it comes with its challenges, but nothing compared to what she has to face with her Juvenile Arthritis.
Sarah is now the Juvenile Arthritis Ambassador of Australia, Australian of the Year Nominee, Mt Barker Young Citizen of the Year, SA Young Citizen of the Year and Start Up Adelaide Volunteer of the Year. She writes monthly video and written blogs to share her experiences and knowledge. She has dedicated her life to supporting Children just like her living with Arthritis as she doesn’t want to see children growing up and living like she had to.