15-year-old Rocky River girl doesn’t let arthritis stop her from playing volleyball

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ROCKY RIVER, Ohio- A 15-year-old Rocky River volleyball player who suffers from juvenile arthritis is in constant pain, but that doesn't stop her from playing the sport she loves.

"It gets to be where I don't get out of bed for anything," Kayla Stephens said.

When Kayla was 12, she was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis and Crohn's disease, which are both autoimmune-related. Kayla goes through a series of medical infusions each month, plus a regimen of daily medications so she can deal with the pain on and off the court.

"I have good days and bad days, and I think volleyball really gets me away from the pain and makes me stop thinking about it. It's like therapy,” Stephens said.

Kayla is being treated at the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital for Rehabilitation, where one of her doctor's uses acupuncture to help manage her pain.

"So the acupuncture can do a number of things. It’s useful for pain management and boost the natural pain responses in the body, and there is some research indicating also can help reduce inflammatory responses in the body," said Dr. Ben Katholi, a pediatric physiatrist.

The pain hasn’t prevented Kayla from playing volleyball for Rocky River High School. When the season is over, her mom is her coach at the Cleveland Volleyball Company.

"She does live in a lot of pain on a lot of days. But she fell in love with volleyball when she was 8 and won't give it up, so she'll play through whatever she has to,” said Kristen Stephens, Kayla’s mother.

Kayla's teammates are inspired on how she plays through the pain.

"She can't move sometimes and she's out there like playing as hard as she can. And so I look up to her,” said Meg Hopkins, her childhood friend and teammate.

Kayla's volleyball dreams do not end here. She said when she graduates from high school, she hopes to play in college.