Girl, 2, in brave battle against arthritis after being bedridden for months with mystery illnessBlaze Duckworth, of Bolton, Greater Manchester, needs injections to walkShe became ill last Christmas but was not diagnosed until April this year
18:41 GMT, 15 October 2012
Jumping on a trampoline, Blaze Duckworth seems to be playing as happily as any two-year-old.
But the little girl is bravely battling arthritis and requires daily injections to help her walk.
Blaze was diagnosed with the crippling condition after being bedridden with a mystery illness for almost four months.
Bouncing back: Two-year-old Blaze Duckworth, pictured playing on a trampoline, suffers from arthritis and needs daily injections to help her walk
Smiling: Blaze Duckworth (right) undergoes daily injections which are administered by her mother, Kelly O'Sullivan (left)
Her mother, Kelly O'Sullivan, 23, who administers the injections herself, said: 'When we say to people that she has arthritis they always reply in shock and disbelief and they don’t accept that she has it.
'It’s still a shock to us too but, when you tell people and they don’t believe us, that can be really hard.
'Everybody understands arthritis in the elderly but they don’t expect it to be something a young person has.'
Blaze, from Bolton, Greater Manchester, began feeling unwell at Christmas last year and developed symptoms including a rash, a temperature and sore knees.
But when Ms O'Sullivan took the girl to her GP, she was told it was merely a viral infection. The girl was put on a course of antibiotics.
Suffering: Blaze was bedridden for almost four months before her arthritis was diagnosed
Painful: Blaze began feeling unwell at Christmas last year and developed symptoms including a rash, a temperature and sore knees
Blaze's problems became worse during January as she became unable to walk and was in constant pain.
After five visits to a GP, she was referred to Royal Bolton Hospital – where doctors were unable to find the cause of her symptoms.
Ms O'Sullivan, who was pregnant with second child Lacey at the time, said: 'I took her to the doctor who said that she had a viral infection and put her on a course of antibiotics.
'But they didn’t do anything – if anything it got worse.
'Then she started limping and by the end of January this year it got to the point where she would not even put weight on her feet and would stay in bed crying.
'Then the pain spread to her neck. She would hobble around holding her neck in pain – it was awful to watch.
'She had gone from being a bundle of fun who was always laughing and running about to not even being able to walk.'
Blaze's arthritis was only diagnosed in April after she underwent an MRI scan at Manchester Children's Hospital.
Treatment: Blaze was referred to a hospital after visiting her GP five times as her condition got worse
Ms O'Sullivan said: 'She went to the Royal Bolton Hospital for about four weeks but despite lots of blood tests and IV antibiotics nothing really helped that much because they were still treating her for an infection.
'She was discharged at the beginning of March when she got a little better, but in hindsight she had been given ibuprofen and I think that helped her with the inflammation.
'After three days she was back to square one and then referred her to Manchester Children’s Hospital, where she stayed for six weeks.
'During all this time I was a mess. It was so frustrating…nobody knew what was wrong with her despite all the tests.
'It seemed like nobody knew what was going on with her and I was at my wits' end. She would just lie there and barely walked at all.
'She’d even stopped eating in that time and she became anaemic. She had a lot of muscle wastage because she wasn’t walking around and lost a lot of weight.'
Ms O'Sullivan praised the doctors who finally discovered why Blaze was in so much pain.
Mystery: Blaze, pictured in hospital with an intravenous drip, was not diagnosed with arthritis until April
Diagnosis: Blaze, pictured in hospital after undergoing lymph node tests, had an MRI scan at Manchester Children's Hospital and the nature of her condition became clear
'I couldn’t believe it when the consultant diagnosed her with arthritis,' she said. 'That’s something that you associate with an old person – not a two-year-old child.
'They explained it to us by saying that it’s an autoimmune disease meaning that her immune system almost works too well and wraps proteins around her joints and that causes the pain.
'She was moved on to daily injections to kill the protein and then a weekly injection that lowers her immune system to stop it over-working.
'I had to go into hospital to learn how to inject her, which was really hard because it’s horrible to inject your own child and see them cry from it.
'She’s getting better now because she’s becoming used to it but once she sees me put the gloves on she goes quiet until it’s done.
Problems: Doctors at the Royal Bolton Hospital were unable to find the cause of Blaze's symptoms
Family photograph: Blaze sits with her younger sister Lacey. Their mother, Kelly O'Sullivan, was pregnant with Lacey when Blaze was taken ill
'As long as she stays on the injections and the oral steroids she will be okay. If she didn’t take them within a few days she wouldn’t be able to walk again, so for the time being this is what she has to go through.
'The doctors have said that they want to keep her on this for a year and see what happens but there’s no way of knowing whether she will grow out of it or if she will need to be on her medication forever.
'We’re trying not to think that far ahead because we’re just happy that she’s smiling and running around like a normal two-year-old.'
Ms O'Sullivan is backing a new awareness campaign ran by Arthritis Research UK which will demonstrate that the illness can develop at any age.
She said: 'I just hope that if there are other parents out there that have a child with similar symptoms reading this, then they can be diagnosed quicker than Blaze was so they don’t go through the upset we did.'
Recovery: Blaze was given a range of medicines and needs daily injections to help her walk