Orinda Teen Raises Funds in Fight Against Juvenile Arthritis

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Miramonte senior Marisa Chow and her “Sharknado” team hope to raise $6000 in support of the Arthritis Foundation.

    Marisa Chow’s life changed dramatically at age 13 when she could no longer play the piano or tennis or dance. It hurt too much.
    She was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
    “My wrists hurt the most now,” says the Miramonte High School senior who is in the school’s jazz band, orchestra, symphonic band and marching band. “I wear wrist braces and use warm compresses when they are really bothering me.”
    Marisa’s mother, Cristi Chow, explains, “After complaining about wrist pain for several months, there were numerous doctor visits and even a cast. Initially Marisa was diagnosed with Kienbock’s disease, but when they were going to do surgery on her wrist we got a second opinion and found it was arthritis. There are many kinds of arthritis and to be more specific hers is idiopathic, which meant one or more joints are affected, and they don’t understand from where the arthritis comes.”
    Through the Arthritis Foundation, Marisa has gone to a Teen Retreat and this summer to the national convention in Minnesota. “It was great to make friends and hang out with peers who understood my pain. I have lots of friends who are so good to me, but to be with kids who also have arthritis creates a special bond,” she says. 
    Christi Chow says her daughter moves a little slower in the morning than she used to. But she credits the staff at Miramonte for being accommodating, giving Marisa extra time to take tests and allowing her to use a laptop to type instead of writing things down. She also has extra time to get to classes if needed. 
    “I think that with today’s advances in medicine and treatment Marisa should be able to do whatever she wants to do,” Cristi Chow says. 
    Marisa’s arthritis is the most common type in children under the age of 16 and can cause persistent joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Some children may experience symptoms for only a few months, while others have symptoms for the rest of their lives.  Sometimes there are serious complications such as growth problems, joint damage and eye inflammation.  
    The disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own cells and tissues. It’s not known why this happens but both heredity and environment seem to play a role. Marisa’s grandfather and great grandmother had rheumatoid arthritis.
    According to Arthritis Foundation staff member Maria Crowder, 53 million adults and 300,000 children are living with arthritis, and children as young as nine months have been diagnosed.
    Marisa will be participating in the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run, which takes place Dec. 7 in Alameda. She and her family have created a team that hopes to raise $6,000. Current sponsors include Living Lean, Genuine Goodness, Morrison’s Jewelers and Orindawoods Tennis Club, and more are welcome. They call their team the Sharknados (after the movie) with their slogan, ‘Take a bite out of arthritis.’
    Marisa’s friends helped design a T-shirt for the walk. Jenny Shen drew the shark biting down on arthritis and Tess Hornbeck did the front of the shirt.
    To donate to Marisa’s team go to https://events.arthritis.org/team/17038.  To sign up to participate in the run go to http://jbr.org/sanfrancisco.

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