Andy's Story

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He has a heartwarming smile, a witty personality and an inspiring, courageous spirit.

"I've been through so much; I don't really like feeling sad, it's kind of like a real bummer, so I just try and stay happy all the time," says Andy Kellems.

In April 2005, Andy Kellems began complaining of stomach pain and a headache. For months local doctors attempted to diagnose the problem, but after six months doctors said he had to be taken to the Mayo Clinic.

"The doctors were able to get him diagnosed within a week, and they started chemo the next day," says Andy's mom, Carla Kellems-Amen.

Andy was diagnosed with Polyarteritis Nodosa, or PAN, a disease that causes the immune system to attack the body's organs.

"The arteries become inflamed and it restricts blood flow throughout the body, affecting organs and tissue. It causes a lot of damage," says Kellems-Amen.

Andy has missed an entire year of school and is still undergoing chemotherapy. Later this month he'll head back to the Mayo Clinic.

He's going to be needing more surgeries to fix what damage can be fixed, and this is something he'll have for the rest of his life," says Andy's mom.

Although insurance has covered a significant portion of the medical bills, totaling $600,000 so far, the family has racked up thousands of dollars in debt.

"I did everything I could to find out what help we could get, and there's nothing out there to help children with rare diseases all together," says Kellems-Amen.

The family is working to set up a foundation to help Andy and others who suffer from the rare disease.

"It's depressing, but I really don't think about it too much. If you don't think about it, you can just have a normal life," says Andy.

Doctors still don't know what causes the disease. If you'd like to help, you can send a donation to:

578 Bayfield Road
Rockton, IL 61072