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Happy Valley girl seeks relief at Mayo Clinic

Local 12-year-old Kiara O’Keefe has spearheaded many fundraisers for various causes over the years, but she’s now the recipient.

Kiara has been battling a string of health issues and is trying to raise $35,000 by the end of the month to repay money she borrowed to cover the prepayment deposit for admission to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Planning to return to Oregon on Oct. 30, Kiara already has raised more than $10,000 through a web campaign.

Minnesota has the only U.S. program specifically geared toward improving the Happy Valley Middle School seventh-grader’s diagnosis of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), which causes blood to pool in her legs. Her heart rate skyrockets when moving, and other symptoms include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, extreme fatigue, headaches, light-headedness, dizziness and fainting.

The O’Keefes have lived in the Clackamas/Happy Valley area for the past 16 years. Their troubles began toward the end of 2012, when Kiara and her sister, Kylie, came down with a stomach virus that had them throwing up 15 to 20 times a day.

Kylie, 16, got better after a few weeks, but then her symptoms took a drastic turn. The older sister’s condition improved recently after surgery for perilymph fistula, an inner-ear tear.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Happy Valley Middle School seventh-grader Kiara OKeefe enjoys a lighter moment between treatments with a Legacy Health working dog.Meanwhile, Kiara’s severe dehydration, weight loss and low blood pressure worsened. Kiara had an endoscopy on Dec. 26 that discovered she has celiac disease, so gluten was removed from her diet.

When she didn’t show improvement and made several emergency room visits, Kiara was hospitalized again in January after several fainting episodes. By the end of January, she was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, where her body’s antibodies attack her thyroid system. In March, Kiara had another week stay in the hospital that resulted in a diagnosis of reflex neurovascular dystrophy, a painful condition that puts the nervous system in overdrive.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Kiara OKeefe (on screen, left) leads the class of 2019  National Charity League 'Ticktocker' meeting from the Mayo Clinic via a webcast on Oct. 18.For the past four years, Kiara has had birthday fundraisers, in lieu of presents, that raised money for a scholarship program at the Clackamas United Soccer Club so children could play at little or no cost. Her most successful fundraiser was for her 12th birthday when she raised more than $1,000 for the Red Cross-sponsored Hurricane Sandy Relief fund.

For more information about her latest cause, visit, donationto.com/kiara-4-mayo-clinic.

Andrea Scott of the National Charity League called Kiara, president of her NCL class, a “leader and a fighter” for her cause and community.