Learn about Waylon's experience with systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

Waylon is all smiles at a track and field event.

Waylon, 11, is an active boy who loves basketball and the St. Louis Cardinals, rides bikes with his older brother, wants to be a graphic designer someday, and has systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (SJIA).

Waylon was two when he fell getting out of a car. He was unable to stand, and his parents noticed his knee was swollen. They took him to the hospital, and after weeks of tests and more hospital visits following a fever and a rash, Waylon and his family were told that he had SJIA. SJIA is a rare, debilitating autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints that can spread to organs. For Waylon’s mother, Jessica, the diagnosis was a relief. Still, she wondered, “How am I going to help my little boy?”

With treatment, Waylon’s systems improved. However, when Waylon was three, his arthritis flared up. He hurt all day for months before a medical treatment could be found. When he woke, his parents had a heating pad ready, and at preschool, his teachers would give him paper towels with warm water. His parents explored essential oils and chiropractors. “I was willing to try anything because I had seen him in so much pain,” says Jessica.

Remarkably, Waylon was not a gloomy child. Although he remembers hurting a lot during this period, when he was about four, he was unable to think of anything bad that had happened to him when asked his Sunday school teacher asked the class to say good and bad things in their lives.

Finally, his doctors found a treatment that worked. Although she works in the marketing department of a local hospital, Jessica had never given a shot to someone. Luckily, she has been able to rely on the support of her family and co-workers. Her boss is a registered nurse who taught her how to give a shot, and he, his wife, and Jessica’s sister-in-law—all registered nurses—offered to administer shots when she wasn’t able to.

Now his doctor is tapering off his medication, and Waylon is in “medical remission” with no signs of the disease.