Every true athlete wants to play at peak performance, and Ryan Stuart, an athletic and intelligent teenager from Thomasville, Ga., is no exception.
Ryan had always excelled at sports. Baseball and football are his favorites, and he stood out as a catcher and offensive lineman, two positions that take a toll on the joints. During middle school, Ryan began to notice nagging pain in his legs and hips. A doctor recommended Ryan rest for a year, and reluctantly he agreed. He said the decision drove him crazy.
“I loved playing sports,” Ryan said. “It was all I ever did.”
In high school, Ryan continued to play, but the pain did not go away. A doctor ordered blood tests but did not find anything causing the pain. After X-rays and more visits, Ryan’s doctor still could not find the source of the pain and referred him to an orthopaedic specialist. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, more X-rays and a full body bone scan were ordered. The results remained murky, and the best the doctor could do was to diagnose juvenile arthritis. Ryan had previously tested negative. At this point, both Ryan and his mother, Beth, were frustrated.
“It was hard watching my son going through this kind of pain and not be able to do anything about it,” she said.
Ryan went to Tallahassee, Fla., looking for answers. More tests had the same disappointing result. Ryan’s doctor even asked whether the young man’s symptoms were psychological. “He thought it was all in my head,” Ryan said.
This was more than his mother could take. Ryan was referred to an Atlanta doctor. After enduring another round of tests, Ryan was told to stop playing football until they could find out what was wrong. Ryan took the news hard.
“I was absolutely crushed,” he said.