CHARLESTON, VT – Six years after being diagnosed with a rare muscle disease called Dermatomyositis, Mariah Bowman recently underwent surgery to replace her liver, pancreas, intestines and abdominal muscles.
Bowman began to show symptoms of the disease at the age of 11, while a student at Charleston Elementary School.
In spite of the fact that Bowman is home schooled and has been staying in Indianapolis with her mother while she undergoes treatment, former counselor and now principal at the school Sharon Gonyaw has worked with others in the community to raise funds for Bowman.
“She embodies strength and endurance,” said Gonyaw. “Her ability to continue to fight day to day is inspiring. Bowman was once a healthy 11-year-old who fell ill one day. She had strep throat and the condition persisted and, after going to her doctor, Mariah was diagnosed with this disease.”
When Gonyaw and Charleston's new guidance counselor Jessica Poginy heard that Bowman missed seeing her father and brother who live in Charleston, they recruited students to help with a coin drive over the first week of school and raised $1316.
“We put a jar in each classroom and had the students compete between each grade. The winners were treated to a pizza party,” said Gonyaw.
Other members of the community have reached out as well, including Pat and Chastity Austin, who donated $100, an amount Gonyaw hopes will be matched by other businesses and individuals.
A silent auction is scheduled for Sept. 20 at the elementary school from 3-7 p.m.
Gloria Bruce is organizing the auction and is collecting items to sell to raise money for the Bowman family.
The weekend Bowman underwent multiple organ transplants, student Kelly Hastings collected bottles and raised $30.
All donations can be sent to Gonyaw or Poginy at the Charleston School and anyone who has a question can call 895-2915.
Dermatomyositis is a rare disease that makes it difficult to swallow, weakens muscles, and makes it difficult to breath, among many symptoms. The cause of the disease is unknown but it is more prevalent in women, and unfortunately in Mariah's case, young girls.
“The transplant may be over but now we're hoping her body doesn't reject the organs,” said Gonyaw. “Her family has stood by her for years. It would be nice if Mariah's father and brother can be there with her at this time.”