OAK RIDGE (WATE) - You may associate a disease like arthritis with older Americans, but almost 300,000 kids in the U.S., 9,000 in Tennessee, have a similar condition.
Devin Price, a 13 year old from Oak Ridge, was recently diagnosed with arthritis and it's taken a long time for him to find a doctor.
Devin's father, Brandon Price, wants the best for his son. Devin is pursuing a new passion, playing guitar. He gave up playing football with his middle school team last year due to pain in his ankles when he practiced.
At first, Brandon had no idea what was bothering his son. He thought it might be "growing pains. This is his first year playing football. This is me saying that, you're just not used to the work. If you don't want to do it, don't do it," he said.
"I couldn't do the exercises because my ankles would hurt so I switched shoes and that didn't help," Devin said.
That's when Brandon took Devin to his family doctor. "She gave him some medications and said if it keeps up, come back. It kept up. We went back, and she did blood work," he said.
Then the diagnosis came. Devin had juvenile arthritis.
Both father and son are on TennCare. Finding a rheumatologist for Devin has taken half a year.
"Nobody is taking him," Brandon said. "Then we moved out of network referral, which means I could call any doctor I want to since there is none accepting TennCare. Even with the out-of-network referral, everyone kept turning me down."
All this time, Devin's condition was deteriorating. "It spread to my tail bone, and I couldn't walk," Devin said.
Finally a few weeks ago, Devin's doctor at Oliver Springs Family Physicians Clinic found a rheumatologist who treats juvenile arthritis is in Nashville.
Brandon said they went there last Monday and it worked out, "Great, he went from not walking to running down the steps of the hospital."
Laura Root is president of the local arthritis foundation and says the specialist Devin was sent to in Nashville is only one of two pediatric rheumatologists in the state.
At East Tennessee Children's Hospital in Knoxville there are clinics held twice a month where kids see a rheumatologist. But if they need a specialist, they're sent to Nashville.
Root says it's important for a child to see a pediatric rheumatologist "because a pediatric rheumatologist has been trained to deal with little people whereas a rheumatologist, their speciality is with adults."
In Nashville, Devin's specialist prescribed Prednisone. It's helped him a lot. "I can walk. I can keep up with the kids at school," Devin said.
Will there eventually be a pediatric rheumatologist in East Tennessee? "We are doing everything in our power to attract one to this area," Root said.
Twice a month, Devin travels to Nashville to see the specialist. It's a long way, but he says it's worth it.
"At least we know what it is, and we can treat it now," his father said.
6 On Your Side doesn't want to mislead anyone. Kids can be treated by rheumatologists. They don't specifically have to see a board certified pediatric rheumatologist.
Dozens of kids with arthritis are seen every month at Children's Hospital. We're told many of the children seen there are on TennCare. You can call 865-541-8000 and ask to speak with the rheumatology clinic.