Take a Walk in These Kids’ Shoes
Today more than 300,000 children suffer from arthritis. Every day, these children face searing pain, and in severe cases, bone and organ damage.
“Healing Hands is a great thing to support and talk about. Massage really helps people with arthritis. It’s not a disease for grandparents – it can affect kids too,” said Sarah Lewinski, a 10-year-old who suffers from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and receives regular massages at Massage Envy as part of her treatment.
During the Healing Hands for Arthritis event, Massage Envy clinics around DFW and the nation will donate $10 from every one-hour massage or facial session to the Arthritis Foundation. Last year’s event raised nearly $500,000. This year’s event will take place on September 19, 2012, and the goal is to raise even more to help arthritis sufferers like Sarah reduce their pain and one day be cured.
“There are no words to say how fortunate I would feel for her to have a pain-free life,” said Ro Lewinski, Sarah’s mother. “Every day she takes medication to control her pain so that she can keep it manageable. Hopefully, one day we won’t have stress over injections, medications, MRIs and hospital visits.”
When 10-year-old Sarah Lewinski walks into a room, she has a positive, confident attitude. Although she may struggle with pain, she still smiles and stays positive. She endures a low dose of chemo every Friday and a cocktail of vitamins and medications several times a day – some for the illness, some for the side effects of treatment. But through it all, she stays optimistic, and she does what she can to support others.
“Sarah is like a ray of sunshine. Despite everything she’s been through, she’s always smiling,” said Brendan McBratney, owner of Massage Envy’s Craig Ranch and Stonebriar clinics and the Frisco North Spa.
For several months, Sarah has been receiving massage therapy treatments at one of McBratney’s Massage Envy clinics. She says that getting a massage “must be what Heaven is like because there is no pain” and that when she gets a massage, she feels the benefits for about two weeks.
“Massage really helps me a lot. Like if my knees are hurting and I get a massage, it will help me for about two weeks,” said Sarah. “It feels really good. My joints loosen up a lot.”
Sarah began showing signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis when she was just a year old, but it took almost a full year to get a diagnosis.
“We went from doctor to doctor to doctor, and they ran so many tests. They just couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. It was horrible knowing there was something seriously wrong but not knowing what we could do to help her,” explained Ro.
Once the diagnosis was made, the Lewinskis tried everything they could to help Sarah.
“It’s important to have hope and keep an open mind. We’ve tried vegetarian and gluten-free diets, yoga, massage therapy – you owe it to yourself to try different things. If it doesn’t work, try something else. But have hope that maybe one day we’ll find a cure,” Ro adds.
At just nine months old, Maren Hoffa began walking. At 10 months she stopped, baffling her parents and their doctors. After eight months of exhaustive testing, Maren was diagnosed with Systemic Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.
“Maren’s condition is extreme. She’s what they call systemic because her arthritis doesn’t just affect her joints, it affects her whole body,” states Becky Rose, Maren’s mother. “It affects her organs, her muscles and even her skin. When she’s flaring, she presents with a rash from head to toe and has an extremely high fever of 105 or 107.”
Maren, now 11, has never known a time when she was not on pain medication. She is currently on four prescription medicines, four vitamin supplements, and she’s on a low-sodium diet to help keep off water-weight because too much weight is hard on the joints. Additionally, she is homeschooled and has to limit her activities because if she “does too much” of anything – even playing with her friends at recess – she will be in more pain.
“If you have arthritis, you have to be careful about what activities you do. You can do sports and stuff, but you have to basically limit it or you hurt. Like yesterday I walked a whole lot, and whenever I walk a whole lot I get really sore. I can feel it throughout my whole body,” said Maren.
In addition to pain medications and limiting her activities, Maren reduces her pain through massage therapy.
“I notice on the day that they do the massage that I don’t have any pain that day,” said Maren.
Becky says Maren goes to Massage Envy at least once a month for massage therapy.
“She feels so much better after the massage,” said Becky. “She looks forward to it like you wouldn’t believe.”
Despite having to endure numerous tests, doctors’ visits, medications and being in almost constant pain, Maren never complains. She tries to live “as normal a life as possible” and hopes that one day they will find a cure for arthritis, so that “no one else has to hurt” the way she does.
When Brylea Longenecker was about a year old, her parents noticed that things weren’t right. She had no desire to pull up and walk. Finally, she began walking at 17 months, but she had a constant limp and swollen feet.
“Everywhere we went, people would ask us if she was OK. Her feet were so swollen. Our doctor thought maybe it was just a growth spurt, but it got progressively worse. Right before she turned three, she stopped walking and went back to crawling to get where she needed to go. We took her to Scottish Rite, and they diagnosed her with Rheumatoid Arthritis,” said Ashlea Longenecker, Brylea’s mother.
Brylea, who just turned four, has Polyarticular Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, a type of arthritis that affects more than four joints. Brylea’s arthritis has inflamed 19 of her joints, causing her swelling, stiffness and pain. The disease also has formed nodules in her elbows and lungs that continue to grow back, despite attempts to remove them.
The Longeneckers have tried everything they can think of to help Brylea. They’ve been to holistic and traditional doctors, they’ve tried gluten-free and lactose-free diets, and they rely on a host of vitamins and medicines, including two types of pain relievers and a form of chemo. Recently, they also started doing massage therapy at Massage Envy.
“When she goes in for a massage, she’s stiff and we have to carry her to the car. After the massage, she can walk again,” said Ashlea.
Ashlea adds that one of the hardest things about having a child with Rheumatoid Arthritis is watching other kids running and playing, while Brylea tries to join in but fails.
Support the Arthritis Foundation’s efforts to find a cure by participating in Healing Hands for Arthritis on September 19. To participate, visit MassageEnvy.com and set up an appointment. All donations will support the Arthritis Foundation’s nationwide efforts to prevent, control and cure arthritis and related diseases.
About Massage Envy
Massage Envy, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, is the leading provider of therapeutic massage in the United States. The national franchise is dedicated to providing professional and affordable therapeutic massage and spa services to consumers with busy lifestyles at convenient times and locations. Founded in 2002, Massage Envy has nearly 800 locations in 45 states. The company was recently ranked #57 in Entrepreneur’