Young arthritis victims are 'waiting in pain'
Stiff joints stop Evie Churchill from doing what she loves best - playing.
The six-year-old schoolgirl suffers pain in both knees, ankles and wrists as she suffers from arthritis, an ailment often linked to old age.
But Evie, from Sallins, Co Kildare, was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis in 2010, just before her second birthday, after her mother noticed she had started walking with a limp.
"It's not fun, she has had to get used to having a lot of needles, blood tests taken and a lot of time spent in hospital," said her mother Rachel Churchill.
Juvenile arthritis is as common as childhood diabetes, but youngsters are still waiting over two years to be assessed for the condition, which can lead to permanent joint damage in adulthood.
Evie's eyesight has also been affected but the family told how they had to go privately to have her eyes seen to because she would have been on a waiting list for a year otherwise.
Patients of the autoimmune disease spoke at an Arthritis Ireland 'Waiting in Pain' conference yesterday where they called for a dedicated, fully staffed paediatric rheumatology unit to be established.
Over 370 children are waiting to see a consultant and even when parents choose to send their children the private route they're still left waiting over five months.
As it stands, there are only two consultant paediatric rheumatologists in Ireland, despite waiting lists doubling from 13 months in 2009 to 26 months this year.
Dr Orla Killeen, the only consultant in this area until 2012, said the lack of resources could have a huge impact in the long-term for many sufferers, leading to permanent muscle waste if left untreated.