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Alabama Public Television Young Heroes of 2017

Meredith Annan

Robertsdale, Alabama
Robertsdale High School

Meredith’s story actually began before she was born—when her future mother was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 18. The disease was brutal, quickly affecting all of her joints. Her mother became the first victim in what was to become a painful, family battle against this debilitating, chronic illness.

Tragically, Meredith’s grandfather died from encephalitis when she was only 4 years of age. He had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis six years prior and was taking an immunosuppressant drug for the disease which weakened his immune system, making him more susceptible to illness.

When Meredith turned 8, her grandmother was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Meredith and her mother cared for her grandmother for the last two years of her life. Her uncle and nominator, pharmacist Ray Hickman wrote, “Possessing a caring nature at this young age, Meredith stayed at my mother’s house during summer break, where she swept floors, fixed cereal and sandwiches, and played cards and watched television with my mother.” Meredith was devastated when her grandmother died, leaving a huge emptiness in her young heart.

Six months after her grandmother’s death, Meredith began experiencing pain and swelling in her own wrists, undoubtably triggered by the stress caused by the loss of her loved one. The doctors ran tests and, at the age of 11, Meredith became the youngest member of the family to receive the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. This started her on a journey of costly injections and infusions of immunosuppressant medications, all requiring extensive lab work to monitor her blood counts and liver functions.

Meredith then encountered another obstacle. Her mother was diagnosed with polymyositis, another autoimmune disorder. This illness caused mass necrosis of her mother’s muscles, making her mom an invalid for months. Meredith had to assist her mother with daily tasks, such as bathing, feeding, and brushing her hair and teeth. Meredith and her brother handled the household chores—running errands, shopping for groceries, and cleaning.

None of this turmoil has stopped Meredith from living a productive, active life. She maintains a high GPA at Robertsdale High School. Her Uncle Ray wrote, “She has an incredible work ethic, as evidenced in her school work, community service, club participation and job dedication.”

While Meredith has faced challenges and experienced tragic losses, she has thrived despite chronic illnesses that have plagued her family for generations. For her determination in the face of physical adversity, Meredith is recognized by her school and our state as one of the 2017 Young Heroes of Alabama.

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The Young Heroes Program is made possible through the support of:

Alabama Shakespeare Festival
BAMM
Blue Cross Blue Shiled of Alabama
Honda

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