Riitaj was 2 years and 7 months old when she first showed inflammation of the knee joints.

We were living in state of Qatar at the time, and she woke up one morning crying because of pain in her knees, and she couldn’t come out of her bed as usual. Her knees were so swollen, we took her to the A&E in the local hospital (in Doha) and the doctor who saw her advised us to give her painkillers, and also referred us to the specialist paediatrician who in turn referred us to the rheumatology department in the main hospital. While we were waiting for the referral to go through, Riitaj had a bad cold with a high temperature, so we took her to the Children’s Emergency Section in the hospital, and the paediatrician checked Riitaj over, and spotted Riitaj’s swollen knees. We told her we are waiting for an appointment from the hospital for this, but she made a phone call to the Rheumatoid Arthritis desk and secured an appointment within four days.

Once we saw the specialist she identified her condition and send us straight away for the eye test, and blood test.

Riitaj was prescribed Naproxen syrup twice a day, with Methotrexate tablets once a week, and steroids and folic acid both taken 6 days a week. Added to that, at a later stage, a weekly Etanercept injection was prescribed.

The time from when Riitaj’s knees were swollen, to seeing the specialist was really hard as we didn’t really know what is going on, or why her knees are swollen. We were far from home, and not over confident in the health care system, and any reassurance was lacking. It was painful and sad to see her when she couldn’t reach out for her toy because she couldn’t walk to get it, and when she did manage to walk she used the furniture as an aid. It was truly a heart-breaking time for us, and her illness affected me on my professional level, as I found it very hard to concentrate on my work.

Ritaaj has always been a very happy and active child, and we consider her a very lucky child as with effective treatment her JIA hasn’t stopped her from doing the things she loves most, like walking in the woods or running around either indoors or outdoors.

For more information about the different types of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, please see our About JIA page.