Kami Chapp won’t give up in fight with rheumatoid arthritis

By Benjamin J. Gohs, Editor

Kami Chapp, 9
Kami Chapp

One Boyne City girl has turned a tough diagnosis into an opportunity to help others.

Nine-year-old Kami Chapp, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she was 2-and-a-half years old, has been chosen as the Arthritis Foundation’s Annual Arthritis Walk Youth Honoree for the May 18 event in Traverse City.

“Well, I think it’s really special for kids who have arthritis because it helps them feel like a normal person,” said Kami of the upcoming walk. “There are so many people who have arthritis and it doesn’t matter what people say, God created every person and every kid has something special about them.”

The walk raises funds and awareness to help fight what has become the nation’s leading cause of disability.

Supporting the walk is important, Kami said, “Because there are kids that need to get medicine and we can raise money to do research and help kids with arthritis.”

Kami’s story began when she was 2 years old and her parents thought her pudgy cheeks and fingers seemed a little odd.

“We started noticing problems that we presented to her doctor … only to be told that it was normal baby things,” Kami’s mom Shaney Chapp said. “We were told that her pudgy fingers and cheeks were baby fat and that she would outgrow it.”

According to Shaney, Kami was having pains and the swelling did not recede.

“Still, no matter how many times we would take her to the doctor, we were told she was normal and that there was nothing to worry about,” she said. “We even got worried that something was going on in her day care after she said that her body hurt but, of course, this was not the cause.”

Finally, after a relative with medical training told them the Chapps to push their doctor for a referral did they discover the real problem.

“So, off to the orthopedic we went. The orthopedic could tell right away that there was something wrong, but did not believe it was her bones,” Shaney said. “He took a lot of x-rays and examined her very closely. The x-rays confirmed that her bones were alright in her hands but that there was still the swelling. He referred us to a local rheumatologist (and) after several more tests and examinations, the rheumatologist said there was a problem but it could not be arthritis because he had not seen it in a child her age before.”

Finally, the Children’s Hospital in Detroit confirmed Kami’s condition.

For the next few years Kami endured seemingly endless medical treatments, weekly shots, constant bruising and upset stomach.

When she was diagnosed with polyarticular rheumatoid arthritis it was in her jaw, arms, wrists, hands/fingers, knees, ankles and feet.

Kami’s mother said she cried for several days following the diagnoses, not having known how bad her daughter’s condition was.

Now a fourth-grader at Concord Academy Boyne, Kami is active in gymnastics, cross country running, girl scouts, church, and she plays the violin and recorder.

She also donates time to help the Boyne Valley Lions Club.

If there is any question about how important the Arthritis Walk is to Kami, her mom said Kami had the opportunity to go to Disney World for her birthday this year and she chose to participate in the walk instead.

“She’s been doing the walk since she was in a stroller at age 2. She’s all excited,” Shaney said. “We gave her the option to go to Disney World or to stay and do the walk and she didn’t think twice about staying.”

Shaney said, as difficult as the process has been, the two most important things she did was push her doctors to find out what was wrong and to contact the Arthritis Foundation.

“The foundation got us into contact with other parents of children with arthritis and I am deeply touched that all the money raised in Michigan stays in Michigan,” Shaney said. “Plus there are fun activities for children to meet other kids in the same position as they are and to see that they’re not alone.”

Everyone is welcome to participate in the walk or donate funds to help with arthritis treatments, outreach and research.

The walk features a three-mile and one-mile course and is located at the Holiday Inn West Bay at 615 East Front St. in Traverse City.

There is no fee to attend the walk. But, if you raise $100 or more you will receive an Arthritis Walk t-shirt.

Shaney’s advice to parents is “Don’t give up.”

“Don’t give up on your children. If they tell you they hurt, believe them,” she said. “The biggest thing is to push. It’s not that the doctors were bad, they just weren’t trained to deal with arthritis.”

Use this link to donate to the Arthritis Walk in Kami’s name: http://arthritiswalktraversecity.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=1047035