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Teen Girl Uses Disease to Help Others

Posted at: 10/26/2012 9:19 PM
Updated at: 10/26/2012 10:15 PM
By: Brittany Lewis

(ABC 6 News) -- For many 13-year-olds, the biggest worry they have is homework or what their friends are doing. But for one young girl, her worries are much bigger than that.

Ballet, jazz, tap. 13-year-old Katie Rhoten does it all.

"I love to dance. I've been doing that since I was two years old and it's one thing that I really love," she said.

But last year, she was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and could only dance for 30 minutes a week.

"It's made it harder for me to dance," she added.

A disease thought to be reserved for the older, striking someone so young.

"Well roughly 1 in 1,000 kids will get arthritis and um most of them are younger than 13 probably 50 percent of the ones are actually before age seven is. The good thing is the long term out look is generally pretty good," said Dr. Tom Mason, a Pediatric Rheumatologist at Mayo Clinic Children's Center.

Listening to how positively Rhoten talks, you might never guess that she has Rheumatoid Arthritis, nor that she also suffers from type 1 diabetes.

"I have to poke myself 13 times a day," she said.

The diseases have left her limited.

"I can't do all of the things that my friends can do I can't run. I probably will never be able to run again," she said.

But all those can'ts, have shown her something that she can do- work to better the lives of other children.

"We've donated thousands of toys," she said.

After her family trip to Disney World was cut short.

"I got really sick and I went into the ICU and every time I got a poke or a shot, I got a stuffed animal that helped me feel like I was at home," said Rhoten.

She took that feeling back to her hometown of Eau Claire, donating thousands of animals, toys, and books to kids in hospitals in Northern Wisconsin.

"Just to see that smile makes me feel really good to know that they do appreciate it," she said.

Bringing a sort of new dance and inspiration to those in need.

"I can look at it either this is gonna ruin my life or I can help others and do more and I choose to do more," she added.

Katie visits the Mayo Clinic a couple times a year. She says she hopes to expand on her donations... even across the country.

Here's the link to her website: http://katharineswish.org/