Since being stricken, Jarrett Michie has become something of an ambassador.
Jarrett Michie has pain in his lower back, his hips and knees, and on the balls of his feet.
The arthritic pain in his body is chronic, and on some days the Apple Valley resident needs help getting up and down the stairs. In an effort to control the pain and inflammation, he takes eight pills a day, gives himself a shot once a week and now also goes monthly to the hospital for an IV infusion of more medicine.
And Jarrett is 10 years old.
The fifth-grader was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis 10 months ago, and there are some days when he can't get out of bed, according to his family.
"As a parent, it's painful to watch," said Kim Michie, his mother. "You want to fix it, put a Band-Aid on it and make it better, but with this you can't."
There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, producing pain and inflammation of the joints and muscles. It's unknown what triggers juvenile arthritis or whether it is genetic or random. Jarrett has a twin brother, Jack, who does not have the disease, said their mother.
Since the diagnosis, Jarrett's life has become a series of physical therapy appointments, ice packs and heating pads. His knees are immobilized at night when he sleeps. He does, however, continue to play basketball, a sport his family, friends and teachers say he loves so much that he is willing to put up with the pain.
"It's not fun at all for a 10-year-old boy who just wants to be a kid like everyone else," Kim Michie said.
'I just feel different'
The pain and inflammation means that sometimes Jarrett can't play basketball or practice, or that he can't go outside for recess, especially during the cold months.
"It's hard," Jarrett said. "I just feel different from the other kids because I have arthritis and they don't."
He attends Diamond Path Elementary in Apple Valley, where he is the student body president. The school, particularly his classmates, has shown tremendous support.
"It's really neat to see the kids are rallying around him," said Kathy Alderman, his fifth-grade teacher at Diamond Path. "He never complains. He is pretty inspirational ... It's a lot for a 10-year-old."
Hundreds of students and staff members wear colorful pink or green T-shirts (designed by an uncle) in his honor with his nickname "B-Dawg" emblazoned on them.
"It's amazing to walk into the school and see these kids wearing their brightly colored shirts to support their classmate," Kim Michie said. "As a mom, it brings tears to my eyes."
Since being diagnosed in March, Jarrett has become something of an ambassador for the estimated 6,000 kids in Minnesota with juvenile arthritis. Nationally, there are about 300,000 kids with the disease, says the Arthritis Foundation.
"He's really a good kid," said Liz Atchison of the Arthritis Foundation, who has been helping Jarrett and his family adjust to life with the disease. "He's really fighting hard to raise awareness."
That includes trying to raise $10,000 in a fund-raising walk at the Mall of America in early March. Jarrett hopes to have about 100 relatives, friends, teachers and supporters walking with him. Jarrett said one classmate had $3 left over from paying for a field trip and she decided to donate it.
As part of his campaign to raise awareness, Jarrett's doctor will be at his school in February to talk about the disease.
"I just want to make a difference," Jarrett said. "I don't just want to help myself. I want to help other people and the Arthritis Foundation."
For more on Jarrett's campaign, or to donate, see jam2013.kintera.org/bdawgnation.
Heron Marquez • 952-746-3281