A 14-year-old Murfreesboro boy has been suffering for nine years, and it turns out he's not alone.
Now, he's sharing his story, hoping to help others in pain.
Nearly 1 million Tennesseans have arthritis, but arthritis in children often goes undiagnosed.
Matthew Firkins is an active boy and participates in marching band and soccer. But what the photos can't show is the pain that he first felt as a preschooler in teeball.
"When he was 4 or 5 years old, he was playing teeball and was limping. We just didn't know what it was. We went to orthopedics and podiatrists and did all kinds of different tests, but they couldn't determine what it was," said mother Mollie Firkins.
But, Matthew Firkins never quit or complained, even when it would have been easy and understandable to do so. He's just that kind of kid.
"It was painful - my knees and ankles - and I just couldn't stand for long periods of time," Matthew Firkins said.
For nine years he suffered until, finally, a rheumatologist at Vanderbilt University Children's Hospital diagnosed him with juvenile arthritis.
It was the beginning of a better life.
"He wasn't really turning his head and just had severe systems, so within about a month of starting to get treatment he was just dramatically better," Mollie Firkins said.
"It's frustrating not knowing what is going on, and it's easier even if it still hurts to know what is going on because you are able to tell people this what's happening to me," Matthew Firkins said.
Today, Matthew Firkins gets two shots a week. Soccer is easier, and so is playing the trombone in marching band. He is not cured, but he is in the game and his family hopes his story will help others.
"The symptoms he had, if that can ring a bell with other parents and they can say, 'Maybe we ought to look at that,'" Mollie Firkins said.
The Arthritis Foundation's biggest fundraiser of the year - Jingle Bell Run/Walk - is a fantastic event in downtown Franklin set for Saturday, Dec. 1.
To register, visit http://www.arthritis.org/tennessee/jingle-bell-run-walk.php.
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