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Evan – BBC Young Reporter of the Year – “Arthritis won’t stop me”

Evan with two members of staff at Sheffield Children's
27 November 2023

Meet Evan! He’s just won the BBC Young Reporter of the Year competition for raising awareness of his condition Polyarticular Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA).

11-year-old Evan is a Grimsby Town academy football player from Cleethorpes and also a patient at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Evan sits waiting for his treatment.

Evan explains his condition: “Arthritis isn’t just something that your granny has. Arthritis isn’t what you get from cracking your fingers. Arthritis doesn’t just affect your joints.

“JIA stands for Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. Juvenile means under 16, idiopathic means unknown cause and arthritis means a Latin word for inflammation of the joints. It can also give you a rash, tiredness, stiffness and sometimes nosebleeds.”

Evan’s mum Lisa describes how his diagnosis came about: “We didn’t know what was wrong at first. We thought if he rested from football training he would be better. He struggled getting up and down stairs, couldn’t walk long distances and had to stop playing football. To see Evan so unwell was utterly heart-breaking. He was in so much pain and couldn’t do all the things he loved.”

After visiting his local hospital Evan was directed to Sheffield Children’s and was diagnosed in December 2022. He’s now under the care of the specialist Rheumatology team at Sheffield Children’s as well as also coming to The Clinical Research Facility at the hospital to take part in a clinical trial which is exploring a new treatment to help children like Evan.

Evan winds up to take a shot at goal!

Evan said: “I love playing football, when I couldn’t play football I felt really sad because my team weren’t really winning any games so I felt like I was letting them down a bit.” His dad Ben Davies, former professional footballer, is his inspiration. Evan added: “When I grow up I want to be a professional footballer like my dad was. And I won’t let JIA stop me.”

Evan explains what current care he has at Sheffield Children’s: “Every four weeks I go to Sheffield Children’s Hospital to have my injections. These injections make me feel better. I’m on a clinical trial and even though the injections hurt sometimes I’m really happy because it helps me go back to football. My doctor, Dr Hawley, is really pleased and said it’s remarkable how much difference it’s made.”

Evan sits with a member of staff at Sheffield Children's

Dr Dan Hawley, Sheffield Children’s Rheumatology Consultant said: “Arthritis in children, whilst not really common, isn’t rare either. It affects about one in 1,000 children in the UK which is more than you might think.”

“It’s great to see children like Evan, who might be struggling with arthritis, have a good response to the care we can offer. Our aim is always to get children to a point where, even with their arthritis, they can just get on and do all they want to in life.”

Evan is now back playing football following the help of the care and the clinical trial at Sheffield Children’s. Mum Lisa said: “After only a month on the clinical trial the results were remarkable. The pain he’d been in for the past year had disappeared and he was back being able to play football and do the activities he loved.

“We never thought we would be back where we are now. The impact is indescribable.  We will forever be grateful for the treatment he has received at Sheffield Children’s. Just the biggest thank you from the bottom of our hearts for giving Evan first-class treatment which has allowed him to live his normal life again.”

Evan added: “I’m back playing football, which I love. Thank you to all the doctors and nurses who look after me and make me better.”

Thank you Evan for sharing your story and we’re so glad you’re back on the pitch!

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