Like many mothers, Suzy Clement is proud of her daughter, Mielle Gonzalez. Mielle is bright, aware and articulate. But unlike other mothers, Clement is grateful when Mielle has the strength to briefly ride her bike or walk up stairs on her own. She never knows if her daughter, who suffers from Juvenile Myositis, will be able to do these things in the future.

Juvenile Myositis (JM) is a rare autoimmune disease whose main symptoms are muscle weakness and skin rashes. JM occurs when the immune system mobilizes against a "trigger" (which could be a virus, vaccine or environmental hazard) but is then unable to stop the infection-fighting process, creating damage to the body.

Other symptoms include inflammation in the digestive system; fever; calcinosis, which are small lumps of calcium that form under the skin or in the muscle; and vasculitic ulcers, which are holes in the tissue that surrounds an inflamed blood vessel.

JM affects only about 5,000 children in the United States. Yet there are two known cases in Alameda.

Michelle San Nicolas clearly remembers the first time she noticed symptoms in her daughter, Kendyl. At almost 4 years old, Kendyl woke up one morning with rosy cheeks, resembling a rash. San Nicolas thought it might be a reaction to a new laundry detergent. But switching back didn't help Kendyl.

When she took her son to see a dermatologist for eczema, she asked the doctor also to look at Kendyl. The doctor speculated