It all started with mild aches and pains that seemed to be no cause for alarm. In 1987, 15-year-old Michele Kazcmarek was enjoying life and indulging in one of her greatest passions – playing sports. When the Brantford teen began to experience discomfort in her joints, she assumed it was just a natural part of her physically active lifestyle.
Then Michele’s knee swelled up to the size of a grapefruit and the pain became unbearable. A shocking diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis meant an end to her involvement with athletics at that time. Her condition worsened steadily and arthritis began to affect all of her joints. She struggled coming to grips with the fact that the disorder affects her entire body and has no cure.
“I had to quit school because I was in too much pain and had limited mobility,” says Michele. “It was a hard time because I was at an age when I just wanted to fit in.”
“I learned coping skills to deal with everyday living.”
Michele received care at McMaster Children’s Hospital and formed many strong friendships with the care providers who helped her through such a difficult experience, even receiving a letter of recommendation from her primary physician that allowed her to get into college.
“The team at McMaster Children’s Hospital was there to help me physically and to prepare me mentally for my new life. I learned coping skills to deal with everyday living.”
Michele’s ability to both become pregnant and to carry a pregnancy to term was challenged due to her arthritis and its treatment. Today, Michele is the proud mother of Keylan, age 9, and Kinley, age 7. Both of her children were born at McMaster Children’s Hospital prematurely and received neonatal care in the hospital “she knows and trusts.” Michele and her children are proud to be “MacKids” and they are forever grateful for the specialized care they received when they needed it most.
Michele, Keylan and Kinley are representing McMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation as patient ambassadors for the RBC Gift Match campaign. From June 6 to 24, RBC will match – dollar for dollar – online donations made to the campaign up to a total value of $15,000. You can donate today at mackids.ca/match.