Seven-Year-Old Kicks Arthritis

It's a field is filled with dreams of game winning goals and soccer glory.  Among the sea of 9-year-olds on the West Hartford Under 9 Travel Bulldogs is 7-year-old Ted Monnes.

"I used to play defense, but now I play midfield", says the confident first grader.

The fact he's playing at all is something of a medical miracle.

His mom, Kris, says it started 3 years ago.  "He started kind of limping around, kind of walking on the ball of one of his feet, we noticed there was no definition to his knee it was all swollen."

Doctors at Connecticut Children's Medical Center diagnosed him with something she'd never thought she'd hear: Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Pediatric Rheumatologist Dr. Larry Zemel says many people are surprised that kids get arthritis. Teddy is one of about 300,000 kids in the United States with the condition. The problem was his knee was just the beginning.

"Eighteen to 20 percent of children with arthritis can develop an eye inflammation which if untreated can lead to loss of vision," says Zemel.

Ted's part of that 20 percent and Kris says it can be debilitating.

"He has swelling behind the lens and... headaches from the pressure. It's kind of confusing to say to people, they look at him and you say he has it in his eyes, they look at you because nobody's ever heard of that", she says.

His knee's doing fine now, but his eyes require aggressive treatment. The regimen includes regular shots at home and a monthly intravenous infusion of a medication called remacade. It's a 3-to-4 hour process, and Teddy gets the maximum dose his 50 pound frame can handle, but he's the strong, silent type.

"We don't even know when he's hurting or anything. He doesn't complain," says Kris.

"The 2 nurses at CCMC are amazed because there's teenagers that are crying about getting an IV put in, and he just says just do this arm today and he's very brave about it."

In between infusions, Ted spends most of his free time in his front yard with his older brothers Jack and Charlie or on the field with his buddies, right where an energetic 7-year-old belongs.

"We're finding that kids now are able to do much more than they were as little as 10 years ago.  We have kids participating in the highest levels of sports," says Dr. Zemel.

Right now, Teddy has eyes focused on one thing and one thing only: soccer.

For more information about call the Arthritis Foundation at (800) 541-8350 or go to the Foundation's website.

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