Arthritis - it’s a condition we associate with older people but Bansha teenager Niamh Costello has had arthritis since she was just three.
Now 14 and a student at Colaiste Dun Iascaigh, Niamh has had to give up camogie and swimming and needs help to carry her own schoolbag, there are even days she can’t stand - but she is determined not to let the condition stand in her way.
That can-do attitude must in part come from her mother Wendy who, this year, has helped to set up the first family support group in Ireland for children with juvenile arthritis - iCan.
Recently iCan held a fundraising cake sale in Cahir, and Niamh, with help from little sister Caoimhe, did some delicious baking! Dad Declan was also on hand to help out.
Juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes the joints to swell and become sore to the touch. Niamh’s swelling can be so bad, her mother describes how they can’t even see the outline of her knee anymore. Niamh describes the pain of the condition as ‘like someone putting a knitting needle into the joint and twisting it around.’
To stop her moving and waking from pain at night the teenager wears splints, however these cause stiffness and so every morning she has a hot bath just to get moving and off to school.
Wendy first realised something was wrong one morning when Niamh was three and as she was going to playschool she said she couldn’t walk. Wendy carried her in and had to carry her home later that day. A GP sent her straight to hospital where, luckily, a consultant paediatrician who saw her had previous experience of working in Crumlin Childrens’ Hospital and diagnosed juvenile arthritis. Many children are not diagnosed as quickly. The flare up was treated with steroids and the arthritis didn’t hit again until three years later, but had gotten consistently worse since and all her joints are affected. Today Niamh attends Crumlin hospital every month for an infusion treatment of steroids. She has regular blood tests in South Tipp General Hospital.