Girl fighting debilitating disease sees improvement ahead of holiday season

Child who couldn't raise her arm last year able to hang ornaments

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - In the Carousel Garden at Celebration in the Oaks there are dozens of Christmas trees decorated by area schools and non-profits.

For Ariyana Marcel and Chase Miller, who have forms of Muscular Dystrophy, the tree they decorate is special.

"What's great about the holidays and Celebration in the Oaks, it brings families and communities together, and I think that's great for our tree today. We're able to showcase that for our families and know that they can come and decorate their tree and be excited about the holidays," Miller said.

This year Marcel is decorating the tree herself, a surprise for the Covington High School freshman.

"We've had a few surprises the past few weeks, it just happened," Marcel said.

She's talking about her extending range of motion in her arms, thanks to a clinical trial treating her form of Muscular Dystrophy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

Just before the holidays, the treatment started work. Before the trial, she'd likely never be able to raise her hand high enough to hang ornaments.

"If I did it would be very limited it wouldn't be very much," Marcel said. "But now I've been doing it this whole time."

For Marcel's mother it's a miracle, but for the young girl, it's just Christmas, something her friend, Chase Miller, knows can help spread cheer to all the other families in the Muscular Dystrophy Association community.

"Growing up in Southern Louisiana, especially right outside New Orleans, Celebration in the Oaks is known by everyone around, whether you're on the North Shore, South Shore, or somewhere around, you know what it is! So to have all the families come and see the tree and know we have a presence here in the community I think it really awesome," Miller said.

Miller knows, while the disease can be incredibly trying at times, it's the small miracles and sometimes just the spirit of the holidays that keep the fight against muscular dystrophy strong.

"It can be a little difficult at times, but since I've started working with MDA I've met so many families that I think we've learned, it doesn't matter whether you're standing or walking or in a wheelchair we fight this disease together and it's really great to know that we can do this as a family and a community," Miller said.