Someone You Should Know: Arthritis warrior

Published: May. 27, 2020 at 4:54 PM CDT
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A Tea Area High School student has managed to share an important health-related message with some prominent South Dakotans.

It's*not about the coronavirus but rather a different disease that he lives with every day.

16-year-old Taylor Van Emmerik wants to get the word out about arthritis.

he was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis when he was 9.

"It's just something that most people don't talk about, so I try to talk about it as much as I can," says Tayor. "When I was first diagnosed, I had it in eight of my fingers, so these four, everything but my thumbs and my right ankle. A few years ago I went into remission and now, I got taken out of it about a year ago actually, and I was diagnosed with about 12 more joints, so my toes and both my knees."

May is Arthritis Awareness Month and this year he chose to reach out to some of the most prominent people in South Dakota to talk to them about the disease.

"Juvenile arthritis is surprisingly more common than juvenile diabetes and cystic fibrosis combined."

Or how they could help in an interview series on his YouTube channel.

Taylor was able to feature Senator John Thune, Congressman Dusty Johnson and other well-known South Dakotans.

"If our influencers don't understand what arthritis is, how it affects people, they can't help explain it to their base of people, they can't help explain it to anyone they come across, so people watching this can expect to see people who know a lot about arthritis and then on the flip side there are a lot of people who don't know anything about arthritis," says Taylor.

Taylor says he can remember the confusion his family felt when he first started showing signs.

"My ankle was actually the size of a water balloon, so those are the two first things I recognized when I was seeing symptoms of arthritis, the swelling, and the joint pain."

"I had no clue what juvenile arthritis was, my parents really had no clue. when my first symptoms showed, they're like 'oh you just sprained an ankle,' until it got to the point where I just couldn't do stuff and that's not how diagnosis should be, we should be able to catch it earlier than this, and that's the end goal."

In the meantime, he'll keep spreading the word.

You can find Taylor's YouTube channel here: