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David's story – juvenile idiopathic arthritis

David Lewis talking at Arthritis Research UK's manifesto launch at the House of CommonsDavid Lewis has a lot to be proud of.

He's represented his country at a major international sporting event; addressed dozens of politicians at the Houses of Parliament; gained a university degree; worked for the BBC; and has made a fantastic start to a book he's writing about his life.

He's done all this with humility, dignity and determination, having had more than 30 operations due to his aggressive systemic-onset juvenile idiopathic arthritis, which he’s had virtually all his life.

Diagnosed at a young age

David was diagnosed with arthritis at the age of two.

One day when he was playing in his garden, he started limping and developed sore knees.

After about a month, David was taken to the doctors. The doctor put it down to nothing more than a typical two-year-old who had lost his balance a few times and had fallen over.

A couple of weeks later David woke up unable to move and had pain all over his body. His family realised there was something seriously wrong. David was taken back to the GP and was then sent to hospital.

David and his family endured two months of various tests, including for cancer, before he was diagnosed with arthritis.

School and university

One of the things David is most proud of is that he kept up with his schoolwork during secondary school and college.

Between the ages of 11 and 17, David had both hips and his knees replaced, as well as major surgery on his neck. With his family's support, David worked hard and gained six good GCSEs at grade C or above.

David, who's 31, said: “School was tough. There were times when I was in hospital for two months at a time and it was difficult going back and getting back into a peer group. I’m proud that I was able to catch up with my schoolwork when I was in hospital."“School was tough. It was difficult going back and getting back into a peer group."

"My parents were always supportive and they said: ‘Despite this, you've got to do the work and get as many qualifications as you can’.”

After gaining two Bs and a D at A level, David secured a place at the University of Central England, now called Birmingham City University, to study media and communications and to specialise in radio.

Before starting his final year, he became seriously poorly. He had to take a year out of his studies but graduated with a 2:1.

Work opportunity

After university David worked at Birmingham City Council in the social services and health department for just over three years.

When an opportunity came in May 2009 to work as a researcher and broadcast assistant for BBC WM, a local radio station, David grabbed it with both hands. Working in the media, and in radio in particular, had long been David’s dream.

"I wanted the chance to prove myself."

Sadly, after just one week in the role, David suffered a fall on his drive. Due to the amount of steroids he's taken over the years, his bones aren’t as strong as they could be, and he broke his leg.

After the fall, David was in bed for nine months and he spent a total of 355 days in hospital.

The BBC offered David the chance to temporarily suspend his contract so that he could resume it when he was well enough. “I didn’t collect any sick pay from the BBC,” David said. “I wanted the chance to work there and to prove myself."

After his hospital stay and recuperation, David succeeded in returning to the BBC, where he still works.

Voluntary work

Despite his busy schedule, David finds time to do voluntary work for Arthritis Research UK. Helping people with arthritis, especially young people, and showing what can be achieved despite living with the condition is a passion of David’s.

He's spoken about arthritis, and the impact it can have on young people’s lives, at schools and colleges, rotary clubs, social clubs, to medical students and on fundraising days.

David recently helped the charity launch its manifesto ahead of the 2015 General Election, and he spoke at the Houses of Parliament in front of 40 MPs and medical leaders.

He said: “It was a great experience and I was very honoured to be asked. I was very nervous.”

Playing football

David Lewis with his medal after playing for England in the European Nations powerchair football tournament in IrelandDavid's also passionate about sport. He's watched Birmingham City all his life and has been playing powerchair football for six years."To be able to play football is a dream come true."

David plays for Sporting Club Albion, which is affiliated with West Bromwich Albion. He's also represented England at a major international tournament.

David said: “It’s difficult to put into words how much I enjoy playing football. To be able to play football is a dream come true.

"I'd never played sport before powerchair football, not even in the playground at school.”

David has trained on several occasions at the English FA’s national training centre, St George’s Park in Staffordshire, and the side is preparing for the World Cup in 2016.

All of these achievements and experiences are filling the pages of a book David's writing about his life.

It was during one hospital stay that David started to write his story. He's so far written more than 120,000 words and he’d love to have his book published.

“I've achieved quite a bit and have talked about my achievements," David said.

"I'm fortunate that I've always had great family and friends and I've always made the most of life.”

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