Kelly Rouba-Boyd was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JA) at the age of 2 in the summer of 1982, a time when most parents had no idea that children could get this disease. Like the parents of many children diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, they thought it was something that only affected the elderly. Sadly, people still don’t know that kids and even babies get arthritis.
For over 35 years, this disease has taken quite a toll on Kelly’s body. When she was in elementary school, she spent months in rehab undergoing intense physical therapy in an effort to regain some of the mobility she lost due to her JA. But the advances made in rehab were short-lived and she began using a walker and wheelchair even before she entered middle school. She missed countless days in school for doctor and hospital visits. She also had a hip surgery as a child and, every night for years, Kelly had to wear hand splints as well as leg splints with weights tied to the bottom so that her joints would straighten out, which never did.
In Kelly’s own words, her JA left her embittered and resentful. “I never wanted to be thought of as different from my peers.For that reason, I rejected the idea of joining support groups with other children who had arthritis and I tossed out every self-help guide the nurses gave me,” Kelly said.
During college, Kelly’s attitude changed. She wrote a term paper and delivered a speech about her life and her disease, speaking openly for the first time in public. “That was the first time I ever spoke about my condition, and it helped me to accept and embrace my situation,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s post-college career and volunteer work has followed a path of advocacy to help people with all types of disabilities. She wrote a self-help guide for those living with the disease (Juvenile Arthritis: The Ultimate Teen Guide) and often gives presentations to help others cope. Much of her work centers on creating awareness of juvenile arthritis and raising funds for research as a board member and spokesperson for the Arthritis National Research Foundation.
In fact, the Arthritis National Research Foundation (ANRF), which is based in CA, recently created an annual grant called The Kelly Award for Juvenile Arthritis
Research and to honor Kelly, her joy of life and her commitment to JA. “I’m so thrilled with this honor; it gives me so much hope and shows my efforts have not been in vain as one day we could have a cure,” she said.
See Kelly in the video below and join her by making a donation to support juvenile arthritis research today!