Hi! I’m Thalia. I’m 17, and I’m currently completing my VCE. In my spare time I enjoy reading, music, dance, and getting involved with my local community.

I have also lived with not one, but two musculoskeletal conditions. At ten months old, I had a severe bone infection in my left hip. I was lucky to survive the infection, but it significantly damaged my hip joint. Over time, this damage developed into severe osteoarthritis. By age six, I was unable to sit on the floor and by age eight I had the hip of an average 75 year old.

My arthritis was getting worse quickly. Despite several surgeries, I ended up in a wheelchair because of a disease that most people didn’t think kids could get.

Now, if you saw a child in a wheelchair who looked completely fine, it would probably raise some questions, right? Well, it certainly did around me. I can’t count the number of times someone has asked me (usually an adult) “now what have you done to yourself?”. When I told people that I had osteoarthritis, many of them didn’t believe me. So, at the ripe old age of eight, I decided to try and change the perception of arthritis and other similar conditions as an “old people’s disease”.

That’s how I discovered what was at that point called Arthritis Victoria, now Musculoskeletal Australia or MSK. I set up a cake stall at my local farmers’ market and raised $722. I spread the message, within my tiny country town, that kids get arthritis too. And over the next few years, I continued to raise awareness and funds for MSK.

In 2017, at the age of twelve, I had a total hip replacement. I recovered quickly, and two months later I was living life like a completely normal teenager. I could walk, run, climb. I even did PE at school. For the first time in years, I was like any other kid. If you end the story here, I live happily ever after… but unfortunately that’s not quite how things turned out.

In early 2018, 8 months after my hip replacement, the pain was back. What I had previously felt in my hip was now all over my body. Muscles were weak and achy, joints felt like they were grating together and even my skin was on fire. People couldn’t touch me without causing me pain. I went back on medication and had countless tests to see why I was in pain, but there was no physical cause.

Eventually, I received a diagnosis: fibromyalgia. The most likely reason is that my brain is so used to being in pain, it thinks it still is; but because of the nature of this illness, we will never know for certain.

Growing up with a musculoskeletal condition is incredibly lonely. I still have not ever met someone my age with osteoarthritis or a hip replacement. I was the only person in my primary school in a wheelchair and it was hard for teachers and students at my primary school to understand my condition. Whilst this is not as prevalent at high school, it is still something I face every day.

MSK has provided me with a community. Through MSK I have met other people like me, people who have had their conditions from a young age, who know exactly what it feels like to wake up every morning not knowing how much pain you’ll be in, or how much function you’ll have. Having this family of people who get it is crucial; it means that I’m not alone anymore.

More recently, I’ve become a young ambassador for MSK’s Teen Talk platform. Teen Talk is an online chat group for those aged between 13-20 who live with a musculoskeletal or chronic pain condition. Teen Talk is a place to connect with other kids who understand what you’re going through. With chill-out spaces, memes, places to chat health and even a pets chat, Teen Talk is an amazing platform for everyone looking for community and support with their MSK journey. I hope to see you there!

In my future, I have no idea what I will be. I am interested in so many fields including psychology, fashion design, the arts, STEM and many, many more. I do know, however, that whatever the future holds for me, I will strive to make a difference in this world, for myself and the other children like me. I want to tell the world my story, to raise awareness for all of the kids out there who live without recognition of the trials they face. I will continue to spread the message that “kids get arthritis too”. And I will expand this message, to say “kids get a whole range of musculoskeletal conditions too”.

Musculoskeletal Australia (or MSK) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.

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