Common disability helps senior move forward

Do you know the leading cause of disability in America? The answer, arthritis, may surprise many, but not senior Lily Byrne who is all too familiar with the disease.
Diagnosed in her freshman year with chronic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, Byrne suddenly found herself face to face with an autoimmune disease. Byrne’s arthritis causes pain in her joints and obscures her movement, but Byrne will not let it disable her.
With over 100 forms of arthritis and over 50 million Americans affected by the disability, individuals can experience a range of symptoms. While most report pain or limited mobility in their joints, severe cases of arthritis can result in blindness or paralysis. Byrne says her symptoms include “[getting] sick easily and experiencing pain in common tasks like opening jars or doors.”
According to the Arthritis Foundation, nearly 300,000 children across the country suffer from arthritis. Byrne admits that coping with arthritis has its challenges and the disability has called for adjustments to her lifestyle. Even with an increased load of medication and modifications to daily tasks, Byrne maintains a positive attitude. “I’ve found that a lot of people are willing to help if you just ask them,” Byrne says.
An integral aid to managing her arthritis, Byrne explains, comes from support from family and the Arthritis Foundation, a nonprofit organization working to cure arthritis. A vital part of the foundation’s mission lies in publicizing information about arthritis and funding medical research.
Byrne especially values the foundation’s efforts to form connections between those with arthritis. Having gained many experiences since joining the foundation, Byrne has even received the opportunity to lobby on Capitol Hill. Alongside other members, Byrne spoke with representatives about various issues affecting the arthritis community.
Outside of logistics, one of the foundation’s key events is the Jingle Bell Run. On December 2, family, friends, and foundation members will join forces in various charity 5Ks across the country. As an active member and participant of the foundation’s events, Byrne was chosen as the youth honoree for the local run in Ellicott City.
“I was surprised but excited to be chosen,” Byrne says. As the youth honoree, Byrne is responsible for recruiting participants and raising money for the event. She will conclude her duties with a speech to the participants.
Statistics echo Byrne’s claims that arthritis affects more people than most assume. “Participating in the Jingle Bell Run is a great way to support the cause, help those suffering from arthritis, and is a fun event too,” says Byrne.
Those interested can take part in the run for fun, or can officially join Byrne’s team, “The Jingle Byrnes” by registering at www.jbr.org/ellicottcity/thejinglebyrnes and paying a registration fee. All proceeds go to the arthritis foundation.