Rocky MeredithRocky Meredith’s journey with Crohn’s disease began at the tender age of 10, setting her on a path filled with challenges and triumphs. Despite her youth, Rocky faced her diagnosis with strength and maturity, grappling with the complexities of a condition that disrupted her once carefree life.

Before Rocky was diagnosed, she recalls a time of innocence and joy, filled with soccer games and carefree days. Around the age of 10, Rocky began experience early symptoms of Crohn's disease such as fatigue, reduced appetite and abdominal pain, becoming an unwelcome companion in her daily routines. It wasn’t until the relentless cycle of flare-ups began disrupting her education and social interactions that she realized it was time to seek immediate medical care.

Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis are both types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease where the cells are attacking one’s own body. Crohn’s disease causes long-lasting inflammation, irritation and sores throughout the intestines, whereas ulcerative colitis specifically attacks and inflames the colon.

Despite the challenges she faced, Rocky found solace in the support of her family and the compassionate care of her trusted physician, Barry Steinmetz, M.D., medical director, Gastroenterology & Nutrition Center, MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach.

Dr. Steinmetz is part of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital, dedicated to treating kids with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

“Our goal is to calm down and suppress the overactive gut immune system enough where the disease does not injure the intestines to a critical point,” says Dr. Steinmetz. “Currently Rocky is on STELARA®, which is a medication that targets inflammatory cells and calms the immune system down, to allow the body to heal and reduce IBD symptoms.”

Right now, Rocky is in remission, which means that her symptoms have lessened to the point where they are mostly absent or gone. While there is no cure for IBD, with effective condition management, routine doctor visits and medication, patients can lead better lives.

Rocky has expressed her complete trust in Dr. Steinmetz and his unwavering dedication throughout the six years she has been his patient.

“After enduring a challenging two-week stay in the hospital battling Clostridioides difficile (C. Diff), Dr. Steinmetz gifted me a massive jar of pickles because he knows how much I love them,” says Rocky. “That really meant a lot to me because he cares for me not only as a patient, but as a person. He makes me feel like he won’t give up on me. Anybody with IBD should go to him.”

Throughout her journey, Rocky has learned to navigate the ups and downs of living with a chronic illness. From the highs of remission to the lows of hospitalizations, she has weathered every twist and turn with courage and determination. To ease her anxiety associated with her condition, Rocky began therapy and decided she wanted to learn as much as she could about her disease to take back control.

Despite the loneliness that often accompanies her condition, Rocky finds comfort in the companionship of her two feline friends, Dandy and Felix, whose unconditional love serves as a source of strength during her toughest moments.

Now, at 16 years old, Rocky is a beacon of resilience and hope within the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) community. As this year’s honored hero at the 2024 Orange County Crohn’s & Colitis Take Steps Walk, she shines a spotlight on the isolating nature of these diseases inspiring others to embrace their journeys with courage and determination.

Crohn's & Colitis Honors RockyLooking to the future, Rocky offers words of wisdom and hope to others facing similar struggles with Crohn’s disease.

“Remember to take deep breaths, to let go of control, and to trust in the journey ahead,” says Rocky.

For Rocky, the road may be twisty and uncertain, but she remains steadfast in her belief that one day, she will reach the summit of her mountain and find peace on the smooth road beyond.

To walk with Rocky and Dr. Steinmetz at this year’s Orange Country Crohn’s & Colitis Take Steps Walk, register with the Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital team.