A northwest Iowa girl has been named as a national spokesperson for fundraising events to benefit the 300-thousand children in the U.S. who share her affliction. Sixteen-year-old Kristen Delaney of Rockwell City (photo at right) was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when she was two. After trying dozens of medications over the years, Delaney says the pain persists.
Delaney says: "It can be really tough being in a lot of pain. I’ve had to give up a lot of things that I love to do like playing sports because my arthritis can get so bad. There are certain limitations to that. The main thing is to try not to let myself get down. I’m very active in vocal choir and speech, so I use my voice instead of my body."
She’s won several awards with the Rockwell City-Lytton High School speech team. Officials say because of her positive attitude and her work with the Arthritis Foundation in Iowa, Delaney’s being named the 2008 National Arthritis Walk Youth Honoree. She’ll be sent all over the country to speak at walks and to promote the events, along with fundraising. Delaney met with members of Congress about arthritis-related issues during a February trip to the nation’s capitol.
In a few weeks, she’ll fly to California to speak at a major walk event — and for a photo and video shoot. Delaney says she also wants to raise awareness about rheumatologists, the doctors who treat people with her sort of affliction. She says, "It’s very difficult for patients with arthritis to find a rheumatologist but it’s even more difficult for kids to find a pediatric rheumatologist. Right now, I’m seeing a pediatric rheumatologist in Omaha, Nebraska, and from where I live, that’s about three hours away."
She has tried every medication and treatment available and even took part in experimental drug studies to find new treatments, but has yet to find pain relief. Still, Delaney says she’s hopeful. She says there have been major medical advancements but with more awareness of arthritis comes more funding for research "and possibly find a better way for each individual to live a day pain-free." In addition to the pain she endures, Kristen has to give herself shots and deal with the numerous side effects of taking more than ten pills a day.
Upcoming Arthritis Walks are planned on: Saturday in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, May 19th in Dubuque, June 9th in Waterloo and September 8th in Fort Dodge. For more information, call 866-378-0636 or visit the Arthritis Foundation website .