WHEELING — Olivia Kiger-Camilo, 17, of Wheeling will be the Miracle Child at this year’s WVU Medicine Children’s Ohio Valley Gala.
She is the daughter of Rebecca Kiger and David Camilo of Wheeling.
Kiger-Camilo was diagnosed in March with necrotizing fasciitis, a rare and dangerous flesh-eating bacteria. Her condition, which started in her foot, resulted in the need for surgery to remove the infected parts. She also received skin grafts. In total, she spent about a month in the hospital in Morgantown.
This year’s gala, Saturday at 6 p.m. at Oglebay’s Glessner Auditorium, will help raise money for the hospital’s transportation team, Kiger said.
“She also nearly died in March,” she said, adding that her daughter was transported by medical helicopter to the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit. “They saved her life. It has been a very long journey. … She’s really great.
“We are so grateful for the personalized and life-saving care she received at WVU Medicine Children’s. Not only did they save her life, but they influenced the trajectory of the rest of her life. She is now interested in becoming a doctor,” Kiger added.
Kiger-Camilo, a student at The Linsly School, said she would like to become a pediatrician one day. At the hospital, she said she bonded with her caregivers. The fact that her family was there to support her also made her struggle easier, she said.
“Apart from the physical pain, I had my wonderful family with me the whole time. I really interacted with the hospital staff. They became my second family,” she said.
Kiger-Camilo said the medical staff was there if she needed a friend, too. There were also many services such as music, games and movies to watch.
“They make the environment so that kids can still be kids and be as normal as possible,” she said.
Kiger-Camilo said her skin grafts have healed and she is now working to restore the muscles and mobility she lost in the hospital.
She said her father is a physiotherapist and helps her with that.
“I just got back from a run,” she said. “I want to go to the Naval Academy, so I have to work on regaining my strength and work on running and push-ups and pull-ups.”
Kiger-Camilo noted that she “definitely” plans to start dancing again.
“Dance is my second home. Hopefully I’ll be there again. I will slowly start again in a few months,” she said.
Kiger-Camilo isn’t worried about getting the condition again because it’s incredibly rare to begin with, she said.
“Every year there are 2,000 cases. It was a perfect storm on how I got it. I can’t take it anymore,” she said.
Dancers are known for pushing through pain and injury to keep doing their art. She added that she and her fellow dancers should take injuries and wounds seriously and clean them properly to avoid possible infections and further injury.
The recovery of Kiger-Camilo has received national attention in recent weeks. Her story has been found in the New York Post, People and on Yahoo! That has reinforced the message she has for others: For other children who may need extra medical care, they shouldn’t be afraid to travel to get it.
“Don’t be afraid to go to Morgantown if something is seriously wrong. You will receive excellent care. I felt supported throughout the journey. I felt really loved, which was an important part of this and healing,” she said.
The gala, entitled ‘A Night of Hope’, on Saturday features fine dining, entertainment, dancing and live and silent auctions. For ticket information, visit ovchgala.com.