Kayla Andrade, 14, is the kind of person who's always quick to offer support be it a helping hand, a smile or a hug, according to her mother DeeDee Riley.
"She's a huge light for anyone that has the opportunity to get to know her," Riley said. "She's always the first one there to help."
But now, the Dublin teen is the one who needs help.
This morning, the first of two upcoming fundraisers will be held in Pleasanton for Andrade, who suffers from several debilitating conditions that cost $50,000 a year in out-of-pocket expenses to treat.
Andrade has suffered from health issues since she was two weeks old, when her heart and lungs stopped. From the time she was born until she turned 2-1/2, Kayla had to be resuscitated 11 times.
Andrade's health concerns persisted as she grew up. She would come down with pneumonia multiple times a year, and drinking water that was too cold would cause a reaction known as anaphylactic shock, Riley said.
Doctors eventually diagnosed Kayla with epilepsy; common variable immunodeficiency, which impairs the immune system; systemic mastocytosis, a disorder that abnormally increases the size of immune cells, and the tissue disorder Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).
"She has four primary diagnoses when most people only have one, which is why it's so difficult to treat her needs," Riley said. "You can get one stable but the others can domino and get out of control."
While Riley and her husband Spencer have worked to stabilize her conditions as much as possible, Kayla's health has declined "pretty quickly" over the last couple years.
"(Kayla) can reach for a cup out of the cupboard and her shoulder dislocates, or step on the stairs wrong and her knee dislocates," Riley said. "She's always been sick, but she's been able to do things now it's very difficult."
Andrade has to use a wheelchair when she leaves the house for any length of time and travels to Long Beach twice a month to see doctors specialized in treating rare diseases.
She has not been well enough to attend Valley Christian Junior/Senior High School and is instead being taught at home by Leslie Howard, a Pleasanton resident and Kayla's sixth-grade teacher at Valley Christian who is organizing fundraising efforts.
"She is a very special young lady, and very close to my heart," said Howard, who is now retired, in an email.
Andrade and her family have recently been dealt another setback a new diagnosis of limbic encephalitis, which is characterized by inflammation of the brain and can be associated with rare cancers.
The diagnosis, in conjunction with Andrade's other illnesses, necessitates further testing and treatment that Riley says her daughter can only get at the Mayo Clinic based in Minnesota. Andrade is scheduled to be at the center from Dec. 9-23.
The visit will add to the family's out-of-pocket medical expenses, bringing this year's total to roughly $74,000, according to Riley.
Wanting to ease that financial hardship, Howard started a GoFundMe for the teen, which has raised over $6,000 as of Thursday evening, and is organizing two December fundraisers for her family.
Riley said her family is appreciative of any support they receive for the teen dubbed "Supergirl" by her little sisters.
"The hope these people are giving us is keeping her alive they're helping us figure out how to best help her," she said.
Fundraisers for Kayla Andrade
* Pancake breakfast, 7-11 a.m. Dec. 3, Pleasant View Church of Christ, 11300 Dublin Canyon Road, Pleasanton. Cost is $10 per person, cash only at the door. Due to limited space, RSVP to Leslie Howard, email@example.com, for a reservation.
* Coffee, tea and cocoa with Santa, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Dec. 10, Inklings Coffee Shop, 530 Main St., Pleasanton. Donations being accepted for beverages and photos with Santa. Drop-ins welcome.