The Franciscan Hospital for Children Heartbreak Hill 5K on June 14, 2014, was a special day for Justin Ith. It was the first time the 16-year-old, who weighed a mere 70 pounds at the time, had been outside for months. As a nurse pushed the wheelchair-bound teen across the finish line, he turned to her and vowed, “Next year, I’m going to finish this race by myself.”
A few months earlier, Justin had been living the life of the average high school student. Skateboarder. Guitar player. Anime aficionado.
“I thought I was invincible. I thought nothing could ever happen to me.”
Justin’s road to rock bottom started in December 2013. His joints were swollen and sore, and it hurt to move. The activities he loved—skateboarding, playing the guitar—were out of the question.
His pediatrician referred him to Boston Children’s Hospital Rheumatology Program, where Drs. Pui Lee and Robert Fuhlbrigge diagnosed him with reactive arthritis, a condition typically related to infection, and prescribed prednisone to manage his joint pain and control his discomfort.
The medication seemed to help. But on Justin’s 16th birthday—March 7, 2014—everything changed. …