2010-07-28 / Front Page

Student battling rare disease needs your help to find a cure

By SCOTT POWELL Ledger Staff Writer spowell@gaffneyledger.com

Granard Middle School sixth grade student Michaela Pittman needs your vote. Granard Middle School sixth grade student Michaela Pittman needs your vote. Michaela Pittman has her eyes on a prize which could benefit her personally in the long run.

The rising Granard Middle School sixth grader is involved in a Pepsi vote campaign focused on a quality of life issue, not winning an election. Pepsi is giving away $1.3 million in grants every month this year. The top prize of $250,000 will be awarded to the nonprofit organization and businesses receiving the most votes for their idea in the soft drink company’s great idea campaign called “Refresh Everything.”

Michaela Pittman is asking county residents to vote for a grant submitted by the Cure JM Foundation. It is seeking the $250,000 award to help fund a research grant into a possible cure and new drug treatments for Juvenile Myositis (JM).

Pittman was diagnosed with this rare, painful and potentially deadly autoimmune disease two years ago.

The disease is so uncommon that only 1,000 children each year are diagnosed with it. Because it doesn’t affect large numbers of people, the disease is a low priority when it comes to medical research.

“There is no research being done on juvenile myositis right now. There isn’t a pressing urgency because so few children have been diagnosed with it,” said Lisa Pittman, Michaela’s mother. “Cure JM is trying to win a grant from Pepsi so the foundation can continue with critical research into finding a cause and treatment for the disease. This requires that the foundation receives the most votes. They are currently in 12th place, so the goal is reachable.”

Cure JM was founded in October of 2003 to raise awareness of juvenile myositis, a disease which weakens muscles.

Daily medications and weekly injections are the main treatments Michaela Pittman receives to control the effects of juvenile myositis. She also receives a monthly intravenous infusion which costs $10,000 and is paid for through her Medicaid insurance.

The treatments have helped the rising Granard Middle sixth grader resume a regular life.

Michaela has just started playing clarinet in the Granard Middle band. She is volunteering at the county museum and collects drink tabs to help pay for chemotherapy treatments through the American Cancer Society.

“If she had not been diagnosed, she could have ended up crippled or in a wheelchair for the rest of her life,” Lisa Pittman said.

People can vote once a day for the juvenile myositis grant idea through July 31 by going to the Pepsi Web site: www.refresheverything.c om/makejmamemory.

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