Arthritis not just an older person’s disease

Young Esquimalt family works to keep things normal

The Laughland family – Hazel

Watching four-year-old Hazel Laughland run and climb on a playground near her home at Work Point, one might never guess that some days her joints are so sore that playing isn’t an option.

The bright-eyed preschooler with a big smile and sparkly pink shoes – they’ve got “Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty” inside, she reels off – is one of roughly 10,000 children and teenagers in Canada with juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

In her young life, the symptoms – soreness and inflammation of the joints – have come and gone.

Her parents, Mark and Tammy Laughland, were relieved last year when Hazel went into remission and didn’t need to take medication or suffer through the injections needed to reduce swelling in her joints.

A flare-up of the condition this spring meant a return to the daily pain management strategy, but the couple were more prepared for it, physically and emotionally, Tammy says.

“When she got her first injection, I had to be out of the room, I couldn’t watch,” she says. “Now she wants me to be there.”

When Hazel, who was born with hip dysplasia in 2008, was diagnosed with arthritis in 2010, Tammy would watch her like a hawk and fret over minor tumbles. That has changed, she says.

“I don’t want to baby her, I want her to toughen up,” Tammy says.

While slightly small for her age, Hazel is a typical youngster who enjoys being active, loves swimming and going to the playground, Mark says.

“She won’t come out and say she hurts, she’ll just say her legs are tired,” he says of the difficult days. “She’ll participate in anything, but she sometimes has to (take it easy).”

With another child in the picture, 19-month-old son, Cole, the Laughlands have tried to normalize their family life as much as possible. Part of that is sticking to their busy work schedules while the kids are at daycare.

Tammy works at the Delta Ocean Pointe Victoria, while Mark, a navy petty officer second class, is an instructor at the fleet school at Naden.

Mark works long hours, but is able to look after dinner and spend time with the children in the evenings. “(Hazel) likes to help with supper, then it’s bath and story time. The weekends are nice, we all get time to spend together.”

They’ll be spending more time together this Sunday (June 10) as they stroll the one-kilometre route for the Walk to Fight Arthritis, staged across the country by the Arthritis Society. The annual event not only raises money for research, it seeks to bust such myths that arthritis is an old person’s disease.

According to society statistics, about one in 1,000 children or teens have arthritis.

Having the resources of the Arthritis Society available, including up-to-date treatment information, has taken away a lot of the fears, Mark says.

“When we found (Hazel) had arthritis we said ‘let’s deal with it,'” he says. “They made things clear – why it’s like this and what can we expect. Just knowing helps so much. When you don’t know, that’s when it’s really scary.”

Walk a little or a lot

• The Walk to Fight Arthritis happens Sunday (June 10), starting from Bayview Properties at the corner of Catherine Street and Esquimalt Road.

• Registration begins at 9 a.m. Participants start the one- and five-kilometre routes at 10 a.m.

• For information, visit and click on ‘locations’ to find the Victoria event.

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