Student’s handicap doesn’t stop her from achieving

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 31, 2002

A debilitating disease has made having an active life more challenging for Carrie Stiernagle; nonetheless she has found ways to be not only active, but to also reach out and help those in need around her.

Stiernagle’s willingness to reach out to and support others was recognized recently by the Shriners Hospital for Children located in Minneapolis. She was recognized as one of two recipients of the 2002 Rainbow of Hope Award.

One reason for the award was because Stiernagle, the daughter of Dwayne and Sharon Stiernagle, has invested her time and energy in talking about the disease to people.

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&uot;I just like to spread the news about the disease. People don’t always know that kids can suffer from arthritis, too. It affects many people,&uot; she said.

When she was 15 months old, Stiernagle was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA), a painful and potentially crippling disease. This version of arthritis afflicts children, and leads to inflammation of the joints. It affects a person’s range of motion, and their ability to use their arms and legs, she said. Stiernagle depends on crutches to get around.

She also has to be careful about budgeting her time and energy.

&uot;If I keep going and wear myself out, it will aggravate my condition,&uot; she admitted. Somehow, though, she manages to keep going.

According to the sponsors of the award, Stiernagle was nominated for the award by Sonja Larson, a nurse at the Shriners Hospital, who had noticed that she serves as a role model in her community, and is active in school, church and community. She graduates from high school in June, but while a student in the United South Central School District, she participated in choir, drama club, plays, musicals and yearbook. She has also been a member of 4-H, Future Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), and was a peer tutor.

Her next event comes July 25-28, when she attends a national conference as a panelist for a discussion about living with JRA. Her audience will be children and their parents.

Throughout her conversations and discussions she has a simple message for people, both those who share her struggle with arthritis and those who don’t.

&uot;Just because we have arthritis doesn’t mean we can’t do regular activities. We’re just normal kids,&uot; Stiernagle said.