By Stephanie Gearhart
A tenacious Santee teen has been selected as the Youth Ambassador for the 7th annual “Walk to Cure Psoriasis” held October 12 at Old Town San Diego.
Last January, seventeen-year-old Maggie Burt thought she had sprained her ankle. This was on top of various joint pains that would seem to come and go. However, shortly after that she found herself needing a wheelchair to get around high school.
“I just couldn’t walk around without being in pain,” Maggie said.
Maggie, a senior at West Hills High School in Santee, sought out medical care as a result of her aches and pains and soon learned from Dr. Robert Sheets, a pediatric rheumatologist, that she has psoriatic arthritis.
“It was great to actually get a diagnosis that explained all my various symptoms. Besides my ankle and knee, I now knew why my elbow and back had been hurting,” Maggie said. “But, I was shocked to find that I had a form of arthritis related to my psoriasis and that it was such a serious problem.”
“This disease has definitely impacted my life,” she said. “At times, when I am having a flare up, I have pain that prevents me from walking around or doing things with friends that involve standing and going places.”
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis that affects about 30 percent of people who have psoriasis. Psoriasis, a chronic, autoimmune disease appears on the skin occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells. Most people develop psoriasis first and are later diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, but the joint problems can sometimes begin before skin lesions appear. Joint pain, stiffness and swelling are the main symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. They can affect any part of your body, including your fingertips and spine, and can range from relatively mild to severe. In Maggie’s case, her joint pain is in her knees, back and fingers.
“Fortunately Maggie decided to take charge of her disease and we are very impressed by the way she is managing her psoriatic arthritis,” said Andrea Korogi, Senior Community Development Manager of the National Psoriasis Foundation.
“As a result, we selected her as our 2013 Youth Ambassador for the Walk to Cure Psoriasis in San Diego and we are delighted she accepted. Maggie is really an inspiration and she serves as a great role model to youth in our community,” added Korogi.
Maggie’s role is to raise awareness about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
“It is important that people know that 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis and for some it can be very debilitating,” said Maggie. “People also need to know that psoriasis is not contagious,and that it can take a big toll physically and emotionally on patients,” she added.
Last month Maggie attended the “More than Skin Deep” annual event held by the National Psoriasis Foundation where she learned from a dermatologist and rheumatologist about the latest treatments and advances with psoriatic disease. The tools she learned have empowered her and are helping Maggie successfully and actively manage her psoriasis.
“I encourage everyone with psoriasis to get educated and be proactive with their care,” she said.
Maggie remains positive and hopeful for a psoriasis cure. Not only is she serving as the Youth Ambassador at the 2013 “Walk to Cure Psoriasis” in San Diego, she also has a walk team and is fundraising to help raise research dollars for a psoriasis cure.
“It is my hope that one day psoriasis will be non-existent,” Maggie said. “ I encourage everyone to join me at the Walk to Cure Psoriasis to make this hope a reality.”
There will be a walk into history through the streets of Old Town before the park opens. Walkers can experience the flavors, live entertainment, costumes, and culture of this historic park, meet Health Fair vendors, consult with physicians, dress up for an old-time photo, participate in trick-or-treating on the trail, play in the Kids Zone, win prizes, raffles and giveaways and lots more.For more information about the October 12th “Walk to Cure Psoriasis” in San Diego please visit : www.psoriasis.org/walk/sd to learn more about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis please visit: www.psoriasis.org