A sister’s help

Kelly Woods enjoys her animals. Photo: Jillian Woods

Keely Woods is a 13-year-old middle school girl from Hendersonville, N.C. She deals with the same things a middle school girl does: boys, body image and puberty.

She is 4 feet 11 inches tall with sandy blonde hair and like most 13 year old girls she likes Justin Beiber and sings his songs at the top of her lungs with the music blasting. She loves to play in the pasture at her house with the goats, sheep, chickens and donkey.

Keely seems normal, but her childhood has not been so normal. For the past five years she has been dealing with a disease that made her a regular patient of the Greenville Hospital System’s Children’s Hospital in Greenville, S.C.

Keely Woods is my little sister, and I am a sister of Phi Mu Fraternity, whose philanthropy is Children’s Miracle Network (CMN). The hospital that my chapter of Phi Mu supports is the same one that Keely is a patient.

It all began when Keely was seven and went for an MRI. The MRI found that she had a brain tumor near her brain stem. The doctor’s decided that it wasn’t worth the risk to go in and remove it. That is when she was diagnosed with precocious puberty. Precocious puberty in girls occurs around the age of seven or eight. It causes the breasts to develop and the onset of a girl’s period. Keely was only expected to be 4 feet 6 inches at the tallest.

“When you first find out, you think about the unknown and there were a lot of unknowns, you think of the worst. Then you realize that you will do whatever it takes to overcome it,” said Jammie Woods, Keely’s dad.

Woods explained that the hospital makes children and their families feel comfortable with the situations they are going through. The endocrinologist that worked with Keely was very knowledgable and if he didn’t know the answer he wasn’t afraid to ask.

“I was scared at first and was not sure what was going to happen, but the doctors were very nice and I am much better now,” said Keely Woods.

The treatments for Keely’s condition were expensive and uncomfortable. She began treatments with shots that went in to her muscle and down next to the bone in her thigh. Keely received these shots once a month for three years. The injections were to slow down the growth in her body. After the three years of shots she began having vials of medicine implanted in her arm that looked like a small tube. Each vial lasted a year and she had two of them implanted. Lastly, she was given steroid shots to make her grow in height. These shots worked better than expected, allowing her to grow to 4 feet 11 inches.

Each of the shots cost $1,800. The vials in her arm cost $18,000 a piece. Keely’s medical bills added up to over $150,000. Without insurance, my family would have had no way of paying the medical bills. The funds raised for CMN are used for patients who do not have insurance and would not be able to pay otherwise.

Participants at the Phu Mu Challange 2012.

When Keely went for one of her visits at the hospital she met a little girl in the waiting room named Merriam. She is a little girl that is benefitting from Children’s Miracle Network. Merriam was telling jokes to anyone who would listen, singing Tim McGraw songs and was an all around fun loving.

It was obvious something was wrong with her, but Keely’s parents weren’t sure what it was. It wasn’t until Merriam was going back for her appointment that Keely and her family found out what was wrong with Merriam. She had cancer. The doctor’s made Merriam and her family comfortable with the situation. Jammie says, “She was such an inspiration.”

Keely loves Phi Mu and she borrows my Phi Mu t-shirts all the time. She says that when she goes to college she wants to be a Phi Mu just like me and to raise money to help children like her.

One of the philanthropy events that Phi Mu organizes to raise money for CMN is Phi Mu Challenge. The Phi Mu Challenge is a competition among the fraternities at Western Carolina University to see who can raise the most amount of money for Children’s Miracle Network.

This year the Phi Mu Challenge raised over $2,000 for Children’s Miracle Network in Greenville. Sigma Alpha Epsilon was this year’s winner.

“It was exciting to be able to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network. It was awesome to see everyone competing for a great cause,” said Alex Burdine, a brother of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

Since 1986, Phi Mu has  has raised over $ 7 million  for the  170 CMN hospitals nationwide.

“As a Phi Mu I support Children’s Miracle Network, specifically the hospital in Greenville, S.C. It is so rewarding because Phi Mu’s across the nation are making differences in children’s lives and their families,” said Hannah Weant, a Western Carolina Phi Mu.