There were lots of firsts for Gabby Shepherd at this year’s Arthritis Teens Camp at El Rancho on the Kapiti Coast. It was the first time the then-14-year-old had flown on an aeroplane by herself, the first time she had been so far away from her family, the first time she took part in many of the activities, such as the ‘escape room’ (solving clues to find a key to get out of a building) and the ‘Burma trail’ (a blindfolded adventure course) and, most importantly, the first time she had been surrounded by other young people who understood what it was like to have arthritis.

Jeremy Corbett Gout arthritis

All of this was made possible by the Arthritis New Zealand Teens Camp and our generous donors.

Gabby has lived with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) since she was a baby. Until a year ago, when she started on weekly injections, she struggled with even the simplest tasks, such as opening glue sticks and tying her shoelaces. Some days she could not get out of bed. Climbing stairs was painful, and jumping on a trampoline was impossible. Happily, the medication is working effectively, and the pain in Gabby’s affected joints (elbows, neck, knees and hands) is now under control.

Gabby first heard about the Teens Camp from her doctor when she was 13 and was gutted she was too young to go that year. But, she says, the wait was worth it.

“This was my first time being with a group of people who deal with the same challenges as me on a daily basis,  dealing with arthritis. It was great to share our experiences and know that I’m not the only one living with these conditions. It was especially great to be able to share with others who were a similar age. I loved it!”

Hailing from Edendale in Southland, Gabby was initially worried about being such a long way from home. 

“But my worries soon disappeared because I was having so much fun making new friends and doing all the fun activities. The supervisors took great care of us, and the food was yummy!” 

“The Arthritis New Zealand Teens Camp was an awesome experience that I’ll never forget, and it’s great being able to keep in contact with new lifelong friends.”   
Gabby Shepherd, age 15

Learn More About Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is the name given to a number of types of arthritis that occur in children.

JIA is an autoimmune condition. This means that the body’s immune system, which normally protects against infection, attacks healthy tissues by mistake, creating inflammation. The symptoms of JIA vary from person to person and can come and go from day to day and week to week. Symptoms will be worse during occasional ‘flares’; at other times the condition seems to disappear for a time.

Joints are sore and swollen because in JIA, the immune system attacks the synovium, the thin membrane that lines the joints and makes a fluid that helps them move smoothly. If inflammation is not treated, it can damage, joints, cartilage and bones and weaken muscles around the joint.

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