For most of her 25 years, Rebecca Hix has suffered from pain in her joints as a result of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis – JRA, the chronic condition that affects all of the joints and sometimes other body systems, such as eyes, kidneys and heart.
She was diagnosed with JRA before she was 3 years old.
In 1986, we told her story in Kidstuff, with her mom and dad, Carol and Charles Hix of Suffolk, relating the awful discovery that their beautiful daughter would experience a lifetime of the disease they thought was reserved for old age.
Carol learned that Rebecca would need constant medications to limit painful flare-ups. But children’s aspirin – the primary anti-inflammatory medication in use at the time – upset her stomach. Her doctor in the rheumatology clinic at CHKD helped her understand how to stave off painful flare-ups with a combination of exercise, activity and medications she could tolerate. Carol says she loved bringing her daughter to CHKD for the positive support she found here.
Several years ago, Rebecca graduated to an adult rheumatology specialist after her long association with CHKD. Newer medications are her constant companion now.
Today, she is a senior at Old Dominion University and works full-time at Lowe’s in Portsmouth.
“I have really learned to embrace life,” she said recently. “I push myself a lot further with my current medication. Since high school, I’ve done so many things I’ve always wanted to do, like white-water rafting, roller skating and ice skating, and I can ride my bike longer distances.” When she was younger, a long bike ride left her unable to walk for a week. “But I know how to pace myself now, and I don’t hold myself back from life.”
Exercise and setting a comfortable pace help her maintain her freedom from pain. So when Rebecca finishes her busy day at work and school, she plays with her pet boxers or takes them on leisurely walks. “I never let myself think I can’t do these things anymore.” she said.
This story was featured in the third quarter 2008 issue of KidStuff, a publication of Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters.