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Rotorua Weekender - 2021-10-15

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Twins all smiles after their big shave

NEWS

Shauni James To donate to their Givealittle page, go to givealittle.co.nz/ cause/the-big-shave-kids-getarthritis-too

The breeze will now be a lot more noticeable for two Rotorua youths, but shaving their hair has been well worth it to raise funds and awareness for a cause close to their hearts. Twins India and Alicia Heron, 16, both decided to shave their hair in order to raise money and awareness that kids get arthritis too. When India Heron was 11 years old, she had a sore knee for about a week. She was in her last week of primary school when her mother noticed India’s right knee was swollen more than twice its normal size. After a couple months of tests and hospital admissions, India was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA). Before long, the arthritis spread to many of her other joints and she was diagnosed with three other conditions that are common alongside JIA. The twins shaved their hair last Saturday at Plunket Rotorua, and India says she was very excited, though doesn’t think it quite hit her that she was shaving her head until the first ponytail was cut off. She says once the shave was completed, she felt proud and like she had accomplished something huge. “It’s not that weird, my head is cold but really not a huge difference. I’m really sensitive to cold due to health issues so have basically been living in a beanie.” She says it was great having people to support them, and Rotorua MP Todd Mcclay was the one who started the shave on her head. Their cousin Thomas Flashoff, 15, who also has JIA, surprised them at the event by coming up from Hawkes Bay. Two-year-old local Ivy Goodman , who was recently diagnosed with JIA, came along to support the cause and also had a turn shaving India’s head. “I think a big part for me and Alicia is the stigma around arthritis that it is only had by elderly people. There is a lot of judgment and people doubting you.” Alicia says she was really excited the whole time during the hair shave event, though a little bit of nerves kicked in as the scissors came out. “It was amazing to feel the support we had from everyone. “There were a lot of people we didn’t know were coming.” She says the strangest thing about having no hair on your head is when you lean up against something. Alicia says it’s important to raise awareness about arthritis in children because people might not realise how much it can affect the siblings and whole family. The twins have now raised more than $5000 on their Givealittle page. The money raised from their shave and fundraising efforts is going to two organisations which have been incredibly supportive for India and her family — Arthritis NZ and Kids With Arthritis NZ. They will be keeping their Givealittle page open until the end of the month. Over the past five years, India has had numerous hospital stays, trialled many medications, been unable to walk for weeks at a time, and her and her family’s life changed as they tried to adjust to living with arthritis. It has changed everything, and meant India has had to learn to adapt how she moves around and does things. India’s identical twin sister Alicia does not have arthritis, but her life has also been affected by this disease. This is in the sense that they are identical twins and it meant there were a lot of things growing up they couldn’t do together anymore.

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