Karen and Arthritis




Karen in the News

Courtesy of WPIX New York (broadcast May 2003)

Date      May 04, 2003
Time      10:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Station   WPIX-TV Channel 11
Location  New York City
Program   Channel 11 News at Ten

MARY MURPHY, co-anchor:

Arthritis is a disease effecting millions nationwide and almost five million people in New York state alone. Tonights' Unsung Hero Karen Ager contracted the disease as a teenager.  For years she wasn't able to bring a cup to her mouth or even hold a loved one's hand.  But now Karen has new medications and she has become a portrait of success.  Lolita Lopez reports.

Ms KAREN AGER (Arthritis Patient):  I suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and I've had that since I was 17.

LOLITA LOPEZ reporting:
At 38, it's almost impossible to tell Karen Ager has a form of arthritis that once made her wheelchair bound.  Her disease caused by an overactive immune system progressed quickly.  The Australian native had a right hip replaced at 28.  Her joints became disfigured and fused together.

Ms.  AGER:  I've got limited movement there as you can see.

LOPEZ:  Karen was forced to move into her mother's four-floor walk-up in Sydney, becoming, she says, a prisoner in her own home.  Even getting to the phone -- a struggle.

Ms.  AGER:  I had to get myself off the couch, onto the floor, crawl on my back.  I would try to reach out for the phone and just as I got there, it stopped.

LOPEZ:  Karen moved to New York City in 2000 to pursue her teaching career.  And while she says it was scary to move to a new city where she knew no one, with such a debilitating disease, for her it was a statement to show that arthritis would not take over her life.

Ms.  AGER:  Every step I would take walking to work would be painful.  But I endured that for a year because I needed and wanted to be here.

LOPEZ:  Last year, Karen was introduced to the new biological drugs she says have changed her life.  Today, she's an advocate here, and in her home country.  Karen explains she cannot move to Australia because the drugs she takes are not on the special government list.

Ms.  AGER:  Unless they get on the list, then the average person won't have access to them.

LOPEZ:  In March, she along with members of the New York Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation met with New York Senators on Capitol Hill and pressed for more research dollars its to find a cure for arthritis.  The chapter President insists Karen's story shows this is not an old people's disease.  Some 70 million people in the US suffer from a form of arthritis.

Mr.  ROSS ALFIERI (President, NY Chapter Arthritis Foundation):  She has reached out to a lot of people.  And let me put it to you this way, when you see Karen, you just can't say no.

LOPEZ:  Now in a relationship for the first time in eight years, Karen will continue telling her story so that others like her will know they can go on living.

Ms.  AGER: All I wanted was the ability to live the same life as someone else my age.

LOPEZ:  Now you can do it.

Ms.  AGER:  Now I can do it.

MURPHY:  That's a wonderful ending.  The Arthritis Foundation will have a walk on May 18th in Battery Park to help raise funds for a cure.  The WB 11 is sponsoring the event and Karen will join thousands looking for contributions toward the cause.