No mother or father expects this. No child can comprehend. No cause is known. No cure exists. Some days, the only thing to hang onto is trying to provide some comfort.
Juvenile arthritis afflicts 300,000 children in the United States, including 38,000 in California.
Macy Coad is among them. She is a quintessential kindergartner, tinkly-voiced and sweet as the morning. At age 5, she has endured more pain than most of us face in a lifetime.
Her parents, Gerica and Alex Coad, have taken every step to ease their daughter's way. Gerica Coad also is involved in the Greater Sacramento Valley Office of the Arthritis Foundation, which has embraced a new program to provide backpacks to families dealing with arthritis.
The backpacks include a helpful book for parents and a soft "thermacare" bear to ease a child's pain.
Each backpack costs about $50, and the local office hopes to provide as many as possible to area families. The Coads and the local office are asking Book of Dreams readers for support.
As with so many juvenile arthritis cases, Macy's story is a heartbreaker.
As an infant, she was "just a super happy, normal baby," her mother said. At about 16 months, the parents began to worry.
Macy lost interest in walking and wanted to be carried. She limped in the mornings. Her knee became swollen. She began walking with one leg completely straight.
The subsequent diagnosis hit hard.
Juvenile arthritis involves autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can bring pain, swelling, joint stiffness and permanent damage to joint cartilage and bones, as well as other complications.
"It was very tough to realize your baby has anything wrong," Alex Coad recalled. "We thought of arthritis in terms of older people with crooked knuckles."
"I thought, a kid can get arthritis? This is insane," Gerica Coad said.
The reality soon settled in.
Macy's pain worsened, especially in the morning and during winter.
Doctor visits became routine. So did lab work every few weeks. The stream of medications seemed endless.
Macy "gets dosed" nine times a day with five different prescriptions, and receives injections weekly and biweekly.
"Shot nights are the worst," her mother said. "It's been three or four years, and it's still no easier."
With the exception of the biweekly shots, which cause burning, Macy rarely protests or cries.
In the morning, the parents' only clue that their daughter is hurting comes when she stands at the top of the stairs and asks to be carried.
Roberta Campbell, program director with the local Arthritis Foundation office, said the backpacks with the thermal bears are designed to introduce families to the foundation's services, and to bring comfort to children such as Macy.
NEEDED: Backpacks, including a helpful book for parents and a soft "thermacare" bear to ease a child's pain.
TOTAL: $5,000BOOK OF DREAMS WISHES
Here's a list of wishes published so far in The Bee's Book of Dreams series. To make donations, see the coupon on this page or go to sacbee.com/bookofdreams.
Dream: Cole Odenweller's family seeks a special bicycle for the 15-year-old, who is afflicted with an undiagnosed neurodegenerative disorder.
Needed: Special adult-sized bicycle. Total: $5,500
Dream: Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services asks for education materials and supplies to bolster its 13-week "Fathers I.N.C." series.
Needed: Funds for curriculum and supplies for "Daddy's tool bag," including toiletries and baby supplies to help dads become better parents.
Dream: A caregiver asks for a special bicycle for Abby Franklin, an 18-year-old who is a cerebral palsy quadriplegic.
Needed: A special-needs bicycle.
Dream: Uniforms for workers at Plates Café and Catering, a program of the St. John's Shelter Program for Women and Children.
Needed: Full uniforms for workers in the training program.
Dream: A Christmas party for Clean & Sober program members, families and friends.
Needed: Funds for the party.