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Resilient Teenager Overcomes Challenges of Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis

At first glance, Kelsey Winslow is just like any other 18-year-old high school student.

She loves to meet new people, hang out with friends and spend time with relatives. More often than not, Kelsey has her phone in hand, texting with friends. Kelsey also can’t wait to attend her upcoming senior prom. In fact, dancing is one of her favorite hobbies.

Kelsey has visions for her future and dreams to use her abilities to improve others’ lives. She’s courageous, strong and resilient. Last May, Kelsey was diagnosed with two diseases many girls her age have never even heard of: lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

“A couple years ago, I began to have joint pain, so I decided to see my primary care physician,” Kelsey said. “Soon after that, I was diagnosed with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis – all on the same day. I was shocked.”

Before her diagnosis, Kelsey didn’t realize the seriousness of either condition.

After meeting with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis specialists, Kelsey began to understand how each disease can affect a person’s overall well-being. Her specialists developed treatment plans so she could receive the most reliable and effective care available.

“My specialists prescribed some medications, which have been very helpful so far,” Kelsey said. “They also recommended that I receive physical therapy as soon as possible.”

To help alleviate the pain of her aching joints, Kelsey and her mom researched some of West Michigan’s top orthopedic rehabilitation programs. They ultimately chose Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

Seven months after she was first diagnosed, Kelsey enrolled in aquatic therapy and began to receive the treatment she desperately needed. For the next 3 months, Kelsey regularly attended sessions to regain her strength and to lessen her pain.

The results of her therapy were quickly apparent.

“I noticed that my pain decreased over time, within the first couple weeks, actually,” Kelsey said. “As time went on, I felt more and more like myself again.”

Kelsey, her doctors, and her therapists are all focused on that exact goal – to help her feel like herself again, and to enjoy all of the activities she used to, completely pain-free.

She remains hopeful that she’ll be able to once again jog outside for long distances. Kelsey looks forward to playing some of her favorite sports, such as track and soccer, without the constant joint pain she’s experienced in recent years. Most of all, she can’t wait for the day to come when she can ride horses again, for miles on end.

Kelsey is also excited about her future career. She’s focused on becoming a professional daycare provider, while also partnering with her mother as the co-owner of a wedding consultation business.

At the same time, Kelsey understands she can’t achieve her goals without maintaining a positive attitude – and she recommends that all future Mary Free Bed patients do the same.

“Even though I’ve had my ups and downs, I always live my life as if it was my last day on earth,” Kelsey said. “I just hope that other patients realize there is always someone out there they can talk to whenever they need to.”

“Life can be challenging at times, but you have to keep your chin up. Continue to move forward, and be as strong as you possibly can. You can overcome every challenge you face, even if it seems impossible at the time.”

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