Arthritis affects thousands of teens

January 8, 2009 10:11:43 AM PST
More than 300,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with arthritis. For many, like 17-year-old Sophie Meuch the pain she is struggling with is not evident. To be or not to be physically active was a major question for Sophie Meuch. Although she has never given in to her pain of her juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, the Wheaton Warrenville High School junior has had to make some life changing decisions.

"I don't make it a big point, but it I'm hurting. I want them to know that there's a reason, and my teachers are pretty empathetic about it," said Sophie.

Sophie was diagnosed with arthritis at the age of 6.

"I remember especially going to the doctor and getting my knee drained, and I remember just the pain that I felt not being able to elementary school when I wanted to do all the activities that other people could do," said Sophie.

Her mom Ellen Meuch says she felt her daughter's pain.

"I remember dropping her off at school and knowing she was hurting...watching her walk away in pain, and it's really hard as a parent," Ellen said.

Despite that fact, you would never know she had a disability. She still needs some accommodations.

"I have a handicapped parking space, and when I get out of the car sometimes in the morning? just the kids are coming down across the sidewalk, and they're like, 'Why does she have a handicapped parking space?' And it' so aggravating because I need it sometimes because I can't walk the same distances as other people," Sophie said.

Sophie's friends are very supportive. Elsa Guenther remembers the time when they used to walk home from school.

"And her knee really hurt and it wouldn't be easy for her. I think we might have had gym together a while ago and it was hard for her to run," said Elsa.

Paige Babilla never knows when Sophie is in pain.

"I honestly can't tell unless she says something about it," Paige said.

"Even though you can't see arthritis in most people, it still hurts. And that one day you can be feeling fine and like nothing's going, and then the next day you can just barely get out of bed," Sophie said.

One of Sophie's favorite things to do is go to Camp Jam, the Arthritis Foundation camp where she meets others with the same challenges.

For more information on Arthrtitis Foundation go to or call (312) 372-2080.