You may have heard that autoimmune arthritis (as opposed to osteoarthritis) has a genetic component. In Marty’s case, his dad and I both had parents with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), so we both could be carriers. As I meet more and more people with autoimmune (AI) illnesses, I see more and more family members affected: parent/child combinations with Lupus/juvenile arthritis, RA/uveitis, or psoriatic arthritis/Anklosing Spondylitis. I know one family that has three generations affected with AI illnesses, and a mom and daughter both on the same biologic medication. This can be a blessing in disguise.
One benefit is that parents are more aware of their kids’ aches and pains, and more likely to know whether they are caused by an injury or by arthritis. If Marty’s first symptoms had been swelling, rather than unrelenting fever, he might have become seriously ill before we got a diagnosis. We might have not sought medical treatment for his chest pain until the pericardial effusion reached a critical stage. If he had been one instead of eleven, he wouldn’t have been able to tell me how bad he felt, or that he had migrating joint pain in the emergency room on Christmas Eve. In that sense, I was saved from my ignorance by the simple fact that his illness presented differently than most kids. Also, had I been familiar with AI illnesses, I might have been more quick to believe Marty when he told me he was hurting 30 minutes after he played with the dog. Now I know better.
There are plenty of drawbacks, however. First is the greater cost of having two or more people in the house with a chronic illness. One is tough enough on a budget, I can’t imagine two. Also in our family when Marty is hurting, Bella and I pick up the slack. In return, he helps out more when he is better. That’s not something you can do if there are two family members down at the same time. In addition, any time Bella has a symptom that remotely resembles one of Marty’s, my mind jumps to arthritis.
Does your family have two or members affected? Has it been good or bad, or a mixed bag?