For starters, he is only 13 years old. But the American Heritage eighth-grader is one of about 10,000 Georgia youth who suffer from a disease that is typically associated with older adults.
“This isn’t something that you just get when you get old,” Zach said. “This is a disease that affects anybody no matter what your age is.”
Six years ago, Zach, son of Darice and Scott Jamison of Woodstock, was diagnosed with multiple epiphyseal dysplasia, a rare form of juvenile arthritis.
The condition plagues Zach with severe joint pain and puts a damper on some of his favorite childhood activities.
“At age 6 he loved sports and was very active,” Mrs. Jamison said. “We let him do what he loved until the pain just got too much for him to bear. That was a really hard adjustment. His form of arthritis is not a typical form. Most children either have lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.”
The pain became so intense last year that Zach needed surgery on both of his hips for relief. The procedures caused him to miss 57 days of school last year.
“This is a disease that is tough on the whole family,” Mrs. Jamison said. “But the worst part is seeing your child in pain.”
But Zach is not letting his arthritis control his life and he is not giving up without a fight.
Zach and his family have become outspoken advocates and fundraisers for the Arthritis Foundation. The Atlanta-based nonprofit advocates and supplies support services for arthritis patients across the country.
Zach has become a regular at Arthritis Foundation events giving speeches and helping raise funds.
He even advocates for arthritis research on the federal level. Mrs. Jamison said Zach has met with U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and members of U.S. Rep. Tom Price’s office.
This weekend, Zach will be speaking and cutting the ribbon for the start of the annual Atlanta Arthritis Walk set for Saturday at the Concourse Office Park in Sandy Springs.
This is the sixth walk for family has participated in, Mrs. Jamison said.
Each year, the family raises about $5,500 for the Arthritis Foundation, she said.
When not at school giving speeches or meeting with lawmakers, Zach is the typical teenager.
He stays active by swimming at the Woodstock Aquatic Center and plays the guitar.
He likes the activities for opposite reasons though.
“Swimming is a great way to stay active and the zero gravity atmosphere is very therapeutic,” he said.
As for guitar: “It allows me to enjoy doing something without being active.”