Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Call To Help A Child

I tell fictional stories all the time, but today I want to share a very real one. It’s the personal story of a sweet little girl who needs your help, the daughter of a dear friend at my church.

Sami Harris, Age 8
Sami Harris is like most normal 8-years-olds. She likes toys, horses, swimming and playing with her friends. At least she was normal until this summer. Now, she’s dealing with a very frightening medical condition. Beginning in May of this year, Sami began experiencing irritation and pain in her eyes. When the pain worsened, her parents took her to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at University of Miami. That was only the first of many trips to the doctor over the summer as they worked to find a diagnosis. Finally, they received a probable one…uveitis.

“We didn’t even know what that was,” Sami’s mother Marisol says.

As it turns out, Uveitis is a type of arthritis. You’ve probably heard of arthritis, which usually affects the joints of older adults or those who are afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis. As it turns out, children can be afflicted, too. There are many different kinds of juvenile arthritis, and according to the Centers for Disease Controlit effects an estimated 70,000 – 100,000 children under the age of 16. Basically, uveitis causes inflammation inside the eye. It can be serious and even lead to loss of vision. In fact, it is the third leading cause of blindness. Read more here.

Often, when there is arthritis in one part of the body, it shows up somewhere else. There was some hope that only Sami’s eyes would be affected, but a few weeks later she began limping and complaining about lower back pain after taking horseback riding lessons. Her doctor recommended she go to a rheumatologist. By then, Sami could barely walk and was in almost constant pain, and she could no longer run and play like other kids. Meanwhile, there were appointments with cardiologists, pulmonologists, and various other specialists in order to rule out other sources of the problem. Finally, doctors did determine she had arthritis in her lower spine as well.

At the end of the summer, Sami began taking Humira, which treats her symptoms. She also takes chemotherapy drugs, which keep the Humira working in her body. Without this medication she could lose her eyesight and the vertebrae in her lower spine could fuse together. The medication has helped ease the pain, but the injections are painful.

“She has to take the adult dose, since there is nothing specifically for children right now, so that makes the pain worse,” Marisol says. 

Recently, Sami’s family became involved with the Arthritis Foundationwhich provides information, access to care, advancements in science, community connections, and seeks to find a cure. Then a few weeks ago, Sami was chosen to be the 2016 honoree for the Walk to Cure Arthritiswhich will be held Saturday, November 12th at Amelia Earhart Park in Miami, FL

“I’m really excited to be the Honoree because I get to tell people my story and talk about arthritis so we can find better medicines that don’t hurt and help other kids get the medicine they need,” Sami says. “Someday maybe we’ll have a cure, too.”

Now here is where you can help!!! Sami is recruiting team members to walk with her on November 12th and donate to the cause in the hopes that no child will have to endure arthritis some day.

Although many of you might live in different parts of the country (or even the world) and can’t physically walk with Sami, you can still make a difference by donating to her team. Just visit Sami's Team Page and click “donate” and/or “join team”. 

I hope you'll look into your heart and help this sweet little girl and do your part to ensure no family has to endure arthritis. I also encourage you to find out about events in your community and perhaps find a child you can help locally.