Ricky was right in the middle of an extremely active and athletic childhood when he awoke one morning with surprising stiffness and pain in his lower legs. The busy 10-year-old tried to shrug off the discomfort. But a few days later the stiffness was back with a vengeance and Ricky found that he was unable to walk. So began a six-month odyssey for Ricky's family of Cooper City, Florida as they visited area specialists in search of the cause of the debilitating pain and stiffness that was increasingly encroaching on Ricky’s once carefree life.
“The pain was very intense and surprising. It seemed to come out of nowhere,” Ricky said. “One night I would be out with my friends and the next morning I wouldn’t be able to get up at all.”
In June of 2000, Ricky was referred to Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, when the family sought more specialized help. It was during this hospitalization that Ricky's parents finally obtained a diagnosis. Dr. Rafael Rivas-Chacon, Director of the Nicklaus Children's Division of Rheumatology, determined that Ricky had juvenile spondyloarthropathy, a form of arthritis that affects the spine and lower portions of the body.
Under the care of the Nicklaus Children's Division of Rheumatology, Ricky began treatments with medications and regular physical therapy that helped him regain function lost as a result of his arthritic flareups. Each flare-up required several months of therapy and hard work to get him back on his feet.
“Ricky is a remarkable boy,” said Dr. Rivas-Chacon. “He had to learn to walk three times while recovering from arthritic episodes. He is a wonderful inspiration for other children with arthritis.”
After three more episodes, Ricky’s arthritis finally went into remission. Today, the high school freshman and honors student is back playing his favorite sport, basketball. He also is a soccer referee and during the summer serves as a counselor for Camp Funrise, the hospital’s summer sleep-away camp program for children with rheumatologic conditions. Ricky has also served as a spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation’s Broward County Region and is a three-time Junior Marshall for the chapter’s annual fundraising walk. He has personally raised more than $8,000 for the Arthritis Foundation.
“We are grateful to Nicklaus Children's for providing us with a diagnosis and for setting us on the path to restoring Ricky’s health,” said Marla, Ricky’s mother.