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Wheeling Teen Fighting Against Rare Disease

photo by: Photo provided

Olivia Kiger-Camilo, a junior at The Linsly School, is currently in intensive care at WVU Medicine Children's in Morgantown, fighting a rare flesh-eating bacteria.

WHEELING – A Wheeling teen, fighting in a Morgantown intensive care unit against a rare flesh-eating bacteria, has seen an outpouring of support from her friends and community as she continues that battle.

Olivia Kiger-Camilo, a junior at The Linsly School, is currently at WVU Medicine Children’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, on a ventilator and in the midst of multiple surgeries to rid her body of necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating bacteria, that has formed in her foot.

A GoFundMe page has been created for her and her family at https://gofund.me/e27dd89a.

Her mother, Rebecca Kiger, said the disease has been very aggressive, and the treatment to fight is just as aggressive.

“At first, they gave her a broad spectrum of antibiotics,” she said. “As they were able to identify the specific bacteria, now they know exactly what antibiotics to give her.”

Then, Kiger said, when doctors see necrosis manifesting, they must cut it out of her body and perform debridement – thoroughly cleaning the wound, removing all callused, infected and dead tissue, foreign debris and other residual materials.

“They’re making cuts up the leg and going above where they even think it is to investigate,” she said. “We are in this period where Olivia goes into surgery, and they take what they need to take. Until they know absolutely sure there is no more, this is the process.”

Kiger-Camilo began to get sick over the weekend, Kiger said, and the situation got worse quickly. Kiger-Camilo was at a dance competition over the weekend. After she had danced Saturday evening, she noticed an open wound on her foot that was bleeding. She iced it, cleaned it and bandaged it. When the competition concluded Sunday, her foot became painful and swollen.

Kiger was not at the competition, recovering from major surgery. When Kiger-Camilo arrived home, she collapsed on her parents’ bed, saying how painful her foot was and thinking she might have a broken toe.

They went to the WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital emergency room early Sunday morning. They knew something was awry, Kiger said, when no method of treatment or painkiller would reduce the pain at all. A foot surgeon came to the hospital to conduct tests, and Kiger-Camilo’s foot was bandaged afterward.

At one point, Kiger touched her daughter’s head and noticed she was hot. Her temperature had jumped to 103 and her blood pressure had plummeted to dangerous levels. Kiger-Camilo was then transfered by helicopter to Morgantown and was admitted directly into the PICU, suffering from septic shock. When doctors there unwrapped her foot, it was covered in necrosis.

Kiger-Camilo and her parents have been there since. To handle the pain and toll of the surgeries and recovery, she has been intubated and sedated. Kiger said her daughter has received excellent care while in Morgantown.

“The team here is unbelievable,” she said. “I know she’s in the right place and in the right hands.”

There have been positive signs. Kiger-Camilo responds appropriately to nurses’ commands. And everytime the nurses start to leave the room, she makes sure to squeeze their hands and offer them her thanks.

Family, friends and classmates have rallied around her. Linsly students, teachers and parents held a vigil for her at the school earlier this week. Friends from Shepherdstown – Rachael Meads and her husband John Meeker – created the GoFundMe page that had raised more than $22,000 as of Thursday evening. The money will help with lodging in Morgantown and other needs. Her dance teammates and their families have been like a family to Kiger-Camilo and her parents in these trying times.

“Seeing that outpouring of support, it means so much to me,” Kiger said. “It’s a testament to Olivia and a testament to the effect she’s having on people’s lives. She’s caring and kind and strong and beautiful inside and out.”

Kiger-Camilo is scared, Kiger said. So are Kiger and her husband and Kiger-Camilo’s father, David Camilo. Yet their faith is guiding them through, Kiger said. Her daughter isn’t fighting alone. She’s surrounded by angels and buoyed by the thoughts and prayers of the community, regardless of faith or denomination.

“Christianity, for me, it’s about the beloved community,” Kiger said. “That is the root of it. Our local community is clearly grounded in that. Everybody is asking for this heavenly and holy healing.

“I’m trying to imagine that she’s going to come out of this, however she comes out of this, stronger and more amazing than ever.”

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