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Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011 05:59 pm

Andi’s Run to benefit children’s tumor research foundation

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Andrea Heath visits New York Harbor after winning a National Scholastic Art and Writing Gold Medal for Film and Animation from the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers.
PHOTO BY IVY BROG, PHOTOGRAPHY BY IVY

“She loves with everything that she has.” Ivy Brog says of her daughter, Andrea Heath. “She gives anything that you ask and more than that. I think that somebody that endures as much as she does on a regular basis, who doesn’t make excuses, that’s the type of person you want around you because they light up any situation.”

“Andi,” as she is known to friends and family, has never had it easy. Before the age of five, Andi required two open heart surgeries to repair heart problems. After the second surgery, Andi developed migraines so severe she was sometimes unable to attend school. While specialists at Children’s Hospital in Wisconsin tried to determine the cause of Andi’s migraines, a nurse practitioner noticed that Andi was not walking correctly. Further observation confirmed that Andi’s left arm and leg were not growing as fast as the right arm and leg. Tests found tumor systems on Andi’s sciatic nerve and on the brachial plexus of her left shoulder. These tumors were slowing the development of Andi’s left leg and arm. Although doctors were hesitant to diagnose a tumor disorder, a severe migraine finally led to the discovery of vestibular tumors in Andi’s ears, a hallmark of neurofibromatosis (NF).

NF is a genetic condition occurring in one of every 3,000 children. Signs of NF can range from pigmented skin spots and skin tags to benign tumors that grow under the skin or on the nerves. NF can lead to blindness, deafness, chronic pain, disfigurement, learning disabilities, bone defects, cardiovascular problems, cancer and other health problems. In Andi’s case, NF has not only caused asymmetrical limb development, atrophy of the left arm, and scoliosis, but also causes shooting nerve pain and pain when walking.

In spite of her health problems, Andi is committed to living life to the fullest. Although her desire to be a musician is challenged by weakness in her left arm, Andi plays guitar and sings not only the songs of others but also her own compositions.

In 2009, when the Brog family moved to Springfield from Milwaukee, Andi quickly got involved in school, community and church projects. She and her best friend, Morgan, won the “Springfield High School Idol” competition two years running. During her senior year, Andi also won a National Scholastic Honor Gold Medal for Film and Animation from the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers. And, when Joplin, Mo., was devastated by tornadoes, Andi went to help.

Andi recently moved to Chicago where she is a freshman at the University of Illinois. She attends classes, is active in her campus ministry and, with some slight modifications to the brake levers, rides a bicycle to run errands and attend classes. Currently majoring in English literature, Andi hopes to transfer to Northwestern to major in journalism. In addition to her active school and social life, Andi is involved in a treatment program sponsored by the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

Andi truly inspires those around her. For the second year, Springfield Church of Christ, where Andi’s parents, Damon and Ivy Brog, serve in ministry, are sponsoring a 5K fun run/walk to benefit the Children’s Tumor Foundation. This year’s event will be held on Saturday, Nov. 9, on the Wabash Trail. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. at the trailhead behind the Sonic Drive-In located at the intersection of Park and Wabash. For more information on the event and to register online go to www.sprinfieldchurch.net/special.html or call Ivy Brog at 414-586-0515. To learn more about NF or the Children’s Tumor Foundation, visit their website www.ctf.org.

Contact Grace at writtenbygrace@yahoo.com

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