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Greenville employees aid JRA patients

Arthritis is an equal-opportunity condition.

It strikes both the young and old, with devastating consequences for some of its victims.

That was a lesson learned by the employees of the City of Greenville Wednesday afternoon as they watched a short film by Randal Crow, featuring three young Alabamians who suffer from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA).

It was part of a special presentation by The Arthritis Foundation of Alabama held during the employees' regular meeting.

One of the youth battling JRA who is featured in the film is 15-year-old Tyler Raybon, whose dad, Joe, works for the city.

Tyler is one of many children and youth in Alabama who currently have no access to a pediatric rheumatologist within the state. Patients have to see regular rheumatologists or travel outside of the state to see a pediatric specialist.

The Arthritis Foundation is working to establish a foundation to &#8220grow” physicians here in the state trained to treat juvenile arthritis. The AF is using the film across the state to raise awareness of the situation.

&#8220This is a very special meeting (in support of the Arthritis Foundation),” Mayor Dexter McLendon said.

&#8220When I first watched this film, I don't mind telling you, the first thing it made me want to do was go to my son's home – he's now 25 years old – and hug him.”

As those who viewed the film learned, the two-year-long delay in a proper diagnosis for Tyler as a young child caused long-term damage.

The JRA has twisted his limbs, causing great pain, and making activities most kids his age enjoy difficult, and sometimes, impossible.

&#8220By the time we figured out what was really wrong, it had already done a lot of damage,” Joe Raybon says in the film.

Both he and his wife, Donna, share the challenges they and Tyler have faced in his short life.

&#8220Tyler's never really known anything but pain,” Donna Raybon, Tyler's stepmother, says.

Following the film, Jan Bell, president of the Alabama Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, said, &#8220This is not going to be the future. This is not acceptable. That is why we are working hard to start a foundation to bring pediatric rheumatologists to our state.”

Bell added, &#8220Early diagnosis, the right meds, and physical activity make all a huge difference. If we can get the proper treatment and medications in time for these children, it will really help them. Anything you can do to help and to spread the word, we appreciate it.”

The city employees were asked to give a one-time donation or consider a payroll deduction set up to go to the Foundation.

Everyone who pledged at least $12 was given a special t-shirt from the Arthritis Foundation.

Those present had the chance to see the face of arthritis up close. Tyler Raybon and his dad were on hand for part of the meeting.

Tyler's face lit up as he received a special plaque of merit from the City of Greenville for his &#8220courage and bravery in the face of adversity,” along with a D.A.R.E. cap and a tackle box, all presented by Greenville City Council member and Mayor Pro-Tem, Jeddo Bell.

Earlier in the meeting, AF volunteer Ran Merritt, marketing director for LV Stabler Memorial Hospital, presented Mayor McLendon and the City of Greenville with a special plaque of appreciation from the Arthritis Foundation.

&#8220I lived a pain-free, charmed life for 37 years…these last seven have taught me a valuable lesson about arthritis,” Merritt, who was seriously injured in an accident seven years ago, said.

&#8220We need to do what we can for these children.”

For more information on arthritis, visit their Web site at www.arthritis.org or call the toll-free line at 1-800-568-4045.