'FriendsGiving Party' to raise treatment funds for St. Charles family battling Lyme disease

  • The Nitkey family of St. Charles during the holidays in 2015. Kelly and John Nitkey, left, daughter Sarah, granddaughter Bella and daughter Hannah. All three girls have Lyme disease and Sarah is now bedridden most of the day. Friends have created a foundation and special event to help raise money for the girls to receive treatments in Germany.

    The Nitkey family of St. Charles during the holidays in 2015. Kelly and John Nitkey, left, daughter Sarah, granddaughter Bella and daughter Hannah. All three girls have Lyme disease and Sarah is now bedridden most of the day. Friends have created a foundation and special event to help raise money for the girls to receive treatments in Germany. Courtesy of Nitkey family

 
 
Updated 11/10/2019 10:29 AM

Sarah Nitkey started having symptoms similar to a stubborn flu when in middle school nearly 10 years ago. Little did her St. Charles family know she would still be sick -- and even get worse -- to this day.

After years of misdiagnoses and failed treatments, Sarah, now 22, found out her continuing debilitating digestive problems and muscle pain were because of Lyme disease. She is now bedridden most of her day and uses a wheelchair to get outside for fresh air.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

To make matters worse, her sister Hannah, now 26, and Hannah's 7-year-old daughter Bella also have Lyme disease -- a cruel and unusual situation for the Nitkey family.

Friends and family, rallying around an opportunity for the three girls to go to a clinic in Germany for special treatments, created a foundation called Sisters Lyme Aide to help raise $300,000 for the girls' treatments, while setting a goal of educating and helping others struggling with the disease.

Supporters are hoping to jump-start that process with a "FriendsGiving Party" fundraiser open to the public from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, at FONA International, 1900 Averill Road, Geneva. Information about the event and the girls is available on the foundation's sisterslymeaide.org website and Facebook page. The cost is $50 a ticket for a dinner buffet, drinks, live entertainment and silent auction. The website also has an option for donations.

As if the challenge of watching her daughters and granddaughter suffer from a disease that is not easy to diagnose isn't enough, mother Kelly Nitkey can't pinpoint the origin.

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"It is a pandemic around the world, but not many doctors know a lot about Lyme disease," she added.

After years of research and traveling across the country to visit with doctors, she felt the European option was one she could not pass up.

"A doctor there specializes in cancer and Lyme disease treatments and has had some good results," Kelly added.

The most difficult aspect for any family dealing with Lyme disease is that it is a "great imitator" because it attacks from within and can seem like flu or even dementia, Kelly said. She points to country music star Kris Kristofferson's battle with Lyme disease, after years of believing he was suffering from Alzheimer's.

While Hannah is not quite as sick as Sarah, her symptoms are not getting better.

"Hannah is stricken with the same pains and is working courageously with two part-time jobs and taking part-time college classes for the past eight years," Kelly said. "What people don't see is when she gets home, she is exhausted and has to lie down for hours to be able to get to her next thing."

Kelly believes it is possible that 7-year-old Bella contracted the disease in utero. Bella's teachers see symptoms starting to surface in her with memory issues and needing help with simple tasks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We will continue on with the foundation after my girls are healed, so we can help other families," Kelly said. "We are going to start hearing about more people finding out they have Lyme disease, as the medical world slowly comes around to what is causing these chronic illnesses."

Sarah, who should be in college, is aware of the mountain she has to continue climbing.

"She has never lost her faith in God, that he will help make her well," Kelly said. "She wants to overcome this and then help others."

More Italian eateries:

It's a good thing that I have plenty of Italian blood running through my veins from my mother's side of the family. I was pretty much raised on pasta, sausages and meatballs.

Thus, it caught my eye that two new Italian restaurants will eventually make their way onto the St. Charles dining scene.

Paradiso Restaurant and Bar will be coming next to the Dunkin' Donuts store in the shopping center along Lincoln Highway on the city's west side.

The other is Marino's, expected to open at some point on the east side when the new Stone Creek retail strip unfolds, after its makeover from the previous Tin Cup Pass is complete.

Caring about city:

The volunteer cleanup crews were out in downtown Geneva last weekend in weather possibly a tad colder than what they are used to at this time of year.

It was time for the decadeslong project of clearing out the planting boxes and corner beds along the city's sidewalks, a task the Beautification Committee has tackled each late fall.

Thus, it was no surprise to see volunteer Jay Moffatt of Geneva drive by in a city truck full of waste bags in the back. He's had the role of hauling away waste during this cleanup for nearly 30 years.

"I'm probably the last one (on the committee) still standing from the early 1990s," Moffatt said from his truck when I caught him at a stop sign on Hamilton Street. "Paul DesCoteaux asked me to do it, and I have been doing it ever since."

DesCoteaux, a longtime Geneva resident and alderman, passed away in 2012 at age 83. One might say every time Moffatt hops in that truck as a volunteer, he's doing it in Paul's memory.

Fest & Folly Fundraiser:

An accomplished jazz pianist and a popular improvisation group will headline the upcoming Fest & Folly fundraiser for the Ecker Center for Mental Health in Elgin.

The gala is set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, at the St. Charles Country Club.

In addition to a buffet dinner, a raffle and auction, attendees will hear music from Loren S. Golden, the pianist at the original Playboy Club in Chicago. He has performed with many of the jazz greats and accompanied comedians from yesteryear in Phyllis Diller, Henny Youngman and Professor Irwin Corey. He currently plays with the Elgin Community College Jazz Ensemble.

For laughs, the GreenRoom Improv, which stages shows at the Hemmens in Elgin and other local theaters, also will perform.

Tickets are $110 per person and available at eckercenter.org or eventbrite.com/.

dheun@sbcglobal.net

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