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Back to building: Juvenile arthritis diagnosis doesn’t slow down Luke Bogatitus

When it first started happening, doctors thought it was just a symptom of the flu virus going around. Luke Bogatitus was showing signs of arthritis, but that wasn’t entirely uncommon for the flu season in 2016.

“It was like a week before Christmas I got sick, and it kept happening,” Bogatitus said.

The now 13-year-old Spring Valley resident couldn’t shake the symptoms. In fact, they got worse — amplified to the point where he struggled to get out of bed in the morning.

“He would wake up some days and literally could not walk,” said his mother, Trisha Harrison.

Doctors thought he may have had a fracture in his left foot. They put a boot on it, but the next morning it was his right foot that was hurting.

After bouncing around to different doctors, Luke’s parents took him to a hospital in Minnesota.

“That’s when they diagnosed me,” he said.

It was juvenile idiopathic arthritis, which affects nearly 300,000 children in the United States, according to the Arthritis Foundation. There is no direct known cause of the affliction. Bogatitus’s type included polyarthritis and enthesitis, meaning it affects multiple places on his body including his hands, wrists, ankles, feet, knees and neck.

And it started to affect the things he loved to do, such as playing sports, or — one of his favorite things — creating art.

“When my fingers began to swell up I couldn’t really paint,” Bogatitus said.

Luke’s been into building and painting from an early age. He first enrolled at the Imagine U Studio in Spring Valley about seven years ago where he was given free reign to create projects such as picturesque landscapes or models of different buildings. The building aspect is a driving force behind his future career goals.

“I want to own my own architecture business when I’m older,” he said.

So, the process of getting his medical issue diagnosed and then treated was tedious.

Harrison said Luke was going back to the hospital in Minnesota every three months initially as they worked to find the proper treatment.

“It was kind of a struggle to find the right medication,” Harrison said. “He had to give himself shots.”

And the side affects were often unpleasant. Things like heartburn, nausea, headaches and an allergic reaction hindered the process until finally they were able to find a medication that stopped flare ups and didn’t have any adverse side affects.

After about three years of working through his diagnosis, Bogatitus recently received some positive news on his condition.

“They finally labeled him as inactive,” Harrison said.

But Bogatitus has been very active in looking to help spread awareness about juvenile arthritis. He said an interview at the hospital with someone from the Arthritis Foundation lead to some more good news.

“A few months ago we got an email for this award,” Harrison said.

Surprise, Bogatitus was named a Face of Arthritis Award winner by the Arthritis Foundation in early October at the 2019 Freedom of Movement Gala in Chicago. He donned a tuxedo for the ceremony and helped raise funding for the Arthritis Foundation with the goal of helping more kids like him get treatment when they are hit with the diagnosis.

He collected around $2,500 for the foundation, but the fundraising is still going on.

Want to help?

To assist Luke in earning more money for the Arthritis Foundation, people can still donate online at

Brett Herrmann can be reached at (815) 220-6933 or Follow him on Twitter @NT_Herrmann.

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