Gymnast Triumphs Over Juvenile Arthritis

Posted On: Mar 7, 2013

At age 10, Olivia Measells has already developed a passion for gymnastics. “She’s a very active child,” says her mother, Jill. “But gymnastics is what she loves most.”

Watching Olivia perform cartwheels on the balance beam and fly between parallel bars, you might be surprised to learn that doctors at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare diagnosed her with juvenile arthritis at age 3.

Olivia’s family first suspected something might be wrong when, during a family vacation, she began complaining of sore knees. Soon after, when one knee became swollen and warm to the touch, the family sought answers—first from their pediatrician, then from Gillette rheumatologist Evren Akin, M.D.

Dr. Akin immediately began treating Olivia with steroid injections to control the inflammation and swelling in her joints. Then, after more than two years in remission, Olivia’s arthritis flared up again—this time, in her knees and toe.

After another round of treatment, this time with methotrexate for 18 months, Olivia is once again in remission, off her medicine, and has experienced no additional flare-ups for almost one year—leaving her free to jump, leap and bend without discomfort. “It’s a day-by-day, month-by-month issue,” says Jill of Olivia’s arthritis. “She’ll always have it, but we don’t know when, or if, it will come back.”

Throughout Olivia’s journey with juvenile arthritis, her family has come to appreciate Gillette’s extra efforts to make kids feel comfortable.  “Dr. Akin takes her time with each patient, making sure the child—along with the parent—understands what is happening,” says Jill. “The Gillette staff is just fantastic!”