My name is Christian Paolo E. Aliermo. I’m a Filipino born in Bacolod City, Philippines. I’ve been battling with my autoimmune disease, Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, for nine years now, and I still will.
The story of my battle began back in October 2009. Like any other regular boy, I expected to live a normal life and to reach my dreams. In my case, I want to be a professional football player. I have one older sister and parents, who are always in full support of me. Furthermore, my family would describe me as energetic and full of surprises. Well, I agree with them for I really enjoy playing all sorts of sports, singing random songs at home, and doing jokes for a good laugh. Unfortunately, life was too early to present itself as a tragedy which changed my disposition.
I was ten years old when I first experienced the symptoms of my disease. It showed itself in terms of pain in my left elbow. We went to a school doctor, and he diagnosed it as a Subluxation. It refers to a joint or bone that has lost its proper position. Hence, I was advised to undergo closed reduction. It is a procedure for bringing back a bone in its normal position without surgery. It was understandable that time that this was my case given I was part of our school’s football varsity team. Accordingly, I was prone to physical injuries due to the aforementioned contact sport.
As time passes by, my case aggravated. I had frequent fevers, felt more pain in other areas of my body, specifically, elbows and knees, and, at times, experienced suffocating. At this point, my family realized that this is not just plain misaligned bone. We went to my pediatrician, and I was diagnosed to have asthma. I was provided with medication, but my breathing became a lot worse day by day on top of the discomfort I felt in my elbows and knees.
It was the night of December 19, 2009 that I was brought to the hospital for I can’t breathe well. The experience was terrifying given I was gasping for air. At this point, the doctors recommended having Tracheostomy Operation, a surgical procedure where the front part of my neck was incised so that a tube can be inserted into my windpipe. I gave my permission to proceed with the operation for I can no longer tolerate the feeling of being out of air.
Taking into account the uneasiness of breathing and discomfort in my joints, the doctors decided that I was misdiagnosed of having plain asthma. Hence, we were referred to a doctor of Internal Medicine, Rheumatology and Connective Tissue Diseases due to present symptoms. The aforementioned doctor finally diagnosed me to have Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA). It is an autoimmune disease where my immune system is attacking my own body, causing inflammation to my joints and other potential areas. Unluckily, my JIA manifested in one of the worst ways - Acute Exacerbation Upper Airway Obstruction. It is when my airway is narrowing due to inflammation of joints in my neck, hence, the need for my tube.
When I first got the news, I was devastated, but hopeful for the doctors said that remission is possible if detected at an early stage and with the “right” treatment. Accordingly, the doctor gave me several medications and treatment plan. It ranges from proper diet, physical therapy, steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, and etc. I was advised to stay at home for a few months and, for this reason, I missed school. I became very low-spirited for I really wanted to be with my friends at school and wished to have my normal life back.
After a few months, it is now time to check whether I can now take off my tube. I was excited to meet the doctor for I believe that I’m already well. Breathing exercises were conducted. Unfortunately, the news was bad for I needed to keep the tube and required more time to recover. I begged the doctor to remove the tube. Of course, that did not happen. The same routine happened ever since. I stayed at home, took too many to count medications, and went to the doctor on a periodic basis. If there is a new treatment, the doctor would recommend and we would take it. Unfortunately, not one of the treatments worked. Yes, some of which reduced the pain, but I’m not yet fully recovered.
From then on, I’ve acquired other illnesses in relation to my autoimmune disease. Some of which are Septic Arthritis, which refers to the invasion of a joint due to infectious factor resulting to inflammation, Laryngeal Soft Tissue Stenosis Edema, which is narrowing of my vocal cord airway due to my autoimmune disorder and prolonged intubation, and Bilateral Basal Lung Fibrosis, which is scarring of my lungs, thereby less oxygen being distributed to my other organs.
With my case, there are a lot of times I would ask why me of all people? What did I do to deserve such a fate? Luckily, I have a family and close relatives who always remind me not to lose hope and just keep fighting. Also, I keep reminding myself that He has a plan, and that plan includes me living a healthy life, hence, my new dream.
Given the lacking medical facilities in my hometown, my family is planning to bring me to Metro Manila, specifically Life Science. They offer a new medical approach and have advanced medical equipment. To embark on this, we need financial support which would be utilized on our accommodation, travel, food, medications, and hospital expenses.
Having shared my story, I am asking for your help to reach my dream of living a healthy life once again. Any amount donated would be highly appreciated for I believe that small kindness can make a big difference to someone in need. If not too much, we’d also like to ask for your support to share this initiative. Furthermore, I would be grateful if I can be part of your prayers. Lastly, I will fight this head-on and I am very thankful for you being a source of hope in my battle with autoimmune disease.
Christian Paolo E. Aliermo