'Old Person's' Arthritis Afflicts Thousands of Kids

Watterson kept searching and in 2006 switched to a pediatric rheumatologist in Charleston, S.C. His office was a four-hour drive, one way. Watterson, who works from home as a medical transcriptionist, would get back from the doctor's office at about 9 p.m. and then start to make up her lost time. "I'd be up all night typing," she says.

They kept the grueling routine in place for a year, but in February 2007, a pediatric rheumatologist set up shop in Columbia, S.C. -- a three-hour round trip.

Getting the right medicine calibrated to a child's body has made all the difference, Watterson says. Breanne is taking methotrexate, a drug that dampens the immune attack on joints, and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. She has gone from a child who collapsed in bed after school to an active 13-year-old, taking violin lessons and after-school art classes.

In 2006, Breanne tried to go door-to-door on Halloween but collapsed after a block. Her father had to carry her home.

"This year, she went out with her friends for three hours," Watterson says. "It's great to see her becoming so independent."

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