LAKEVIEW — It was only supposed to be a sprained ankle.
Lakeview Wildcat Alex King woke the morning of November 15 with some swelling in her left ankle. The athletic junior thought nothing of it. Sprained ankles and sore body parts are nothing uncommon during the season.
“We had been playing basketball. I just woke up and my left ankle was swollen along the bottom of my foot and sensitive on the inside bone of my ankle,” King said. “I told my mom I didn’t get injured, so we just iced it and rested it.”
Unfortunately, common treatment didn’t respond. Maybe it was tendonitis?
She was already on crutches when the swelling worked its way to her left knee. The pain and swelling continued with her left elbow, right shoulder, collarbone and the left side of her jaw.
The pain was causing King to miss her basketball season. A starter most of her sophomore year, King was looking forward to a great junior season. All she could do was watch.
“I never had a problem before. There was no injury, no nothing,” King said. “It was so weird. It just moved up my body.”
Trips to the doctor for x-rays, blood work, MRIs and more couldn’t pinpoint a problem. Finally blood tests showed her RA factor was positive.
A visit with an orthopedic specialist found no structural damage to any of her pain areas. It was then recommended she see a rheumatologist.
On Dec. 27, King was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA). JRA is an autoimmune disease that afflicts just 50.000 children in the United States and typically appears between the ages of six months and 16 years old.
Only after a combination of medication was prescribed did King feel any relief.
“It took about four months for the medication to start working,” King said. “I’m on four different kinds of medication.”
King called it a “nightmare.”
“I was terrified at first. It was the worst few months of my life,” King said. “It was like living a nightmare. I felt like I should just give up. It was so hard and I would just cry all the time.”
As the medication started to work, King was able to participate more in basketball. She was practicing and even appeared in late season games. But after weeks of illness she wasn’t the same, having lost 13 pounds of muscle.
Spring brought track season. King was of the area’s best track performers that past two seasons. She was a regional champion and placed eighth in the state as a freshman in the 100 hurdles. As a sophomore, she seventh in the long jump, sixth with 1,600 relay team and fourth in the 100 hurdles at the Division 3 state track meet.
Through April, King still struggled with pain, but she was practicing. In May, she began to feel like herself.
“The first couple of days of practice didn’t go so well,” King said. “During block starts, my knee would give out and I would just fall. The pain would come and go. I didn’t think I would be able to run this year. I didn’t want my knee to give out during an actual race.
Because of the pain, King didn’t participate in her usual events of the long jump and high jump. She focused on hurdles and relay events.
Her best time during the regular season was a 16.4 in the 100 hurdles. At the Division 3 regionals, King ran a 16.39 to place third and qualify for state.
At the state final, King ran a 16.56 in the preliminaries to advance to the semifinals. She bettered that with a 16.11 to finish fourth in her heat and qualify for the 100 hurdles final.
King would top her time once more. She ran a 15.68 in the final race to bring home a third place finish.
“I cried I was so excited,” King said.
Her family cried as well.
It was an incredible finish to a horrible seven months. Now feeling better, King is looking forward to her senior year.
“I have my confidence back. It was that state final race that did it for me,” she said. “I was always so scared of what might or could happen. Now, I’m past that.”