Dear Peg Kehret,
Only old people get arthritis! Well the sad truth is this statement is not true. As I lounged in my exceptionally clean room, engulfed in your book, My Brother Made Me Do It, I was completely hypnotized by Julie Welsh's life. It amazed me that she tried so hard at everything. With juvenile arthritis plaguing her life everyday, she craved nothing more than just to live like a normal teenager. Then, my mom would call me to dinner and I would tumble back to earth, back to my easy way of life. This got me thinking. How many lives does Juvenile Arthritis affect? How many lives could someone change for the better if they tried?
I am a very active fourteen-year-old girl. I play four sports and I am involved in several extracurricular activities. On top of all this I have to deal with three, annoying, devious, and extremely destructive little brothers. Three of them! I might be exaggerating a little bit. I think you would agree with me that sometimes brothers aren't half bad ... they actually helped me through one of the worst times of my life.
I really did think that only old people got arthritis. My measly assumption changed drastically because of your book. I started to understand how painful arthritis can be, not only physically but mentally. For someone like Julie who loved being active and involved, to then get that taken away would have to be horribly devastating. Devastating, I know because not too long ago I had a terrible injury. I was on the soccer field, in the middle of a huge battle for the ball. Suddenly my knee twisted left but my foot stayed planted to the right. It made the worst sound any athlete could hear. It popped, making my body cringe in reaction. At first I tried to ignore the pain. Then my coach took me out and I collapsed on the sideline. I went to the hospital that night. Wincing as the doctor examined my knee, he had nothing but bad news. He said that I had torn a ligament in my knee called the MCL. He also said that I possibly injured another ligament, the ACL, and there could be some cartilage damage. I was destroyed, like a hurricane wiping out a whole city. If my knee was truly hurt that bad I would never get to play the same again, if at all. But God was on my side; I was going to heal completely. Through the endless
hours of physical therapy I was in low spirits. My brothers, I could tell, were trying to help. They would try not to yell as much. Sometimes they would even do me some favors. A sense of pure love and relief flooded over me. Then I felt the anguish again, as I thought about Julie in your book. Children with her condition wouldn't ever be released from the binds of arthritis.
Arthritis isn't curable. It can only be managed. How hard would it be for a child to accept that they wouldn't be able to do the things they loved in the same way ever again? Kids with arthritis that loved sports wouldn't be able to hear the crowd cheer for their team. Or children who played music would not get to hear a thunderous applause. Julie's brother didn't want her to miss that. He made her run in the schools fun run. Then, at the finish line, everyone cheered for her. The one who came last.
How many lives could someone change if they tried? How many lives could I change if I tried? You have opened my eyes to some things I never would have dreamed to think.
For one, I never would have known that my brothers could be caring, thoughtful, and encouraging. At least without being forced to! Also, considering a career as a Physical Therapist ... never would have crossed my mind. But because of my injury and Julie's experience as you detailed in the book, I now know that Physical Therapists can help children cope with arthritis and other injuries. This career is going to be my way of changing children's lives.
I want to thank you Peg Kehret for writing My Brother Made Me Do It. I don't think I can thank you enough. It really altered the way I think about my brothers, people with arthritis and myself. I was able to pull through to full recovery. With a little help of course! Your book also brought one question to mind that in my opinion, every person should think about every day. How many lives could I change if I tried?