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Battle with Caroli disease is daily routine for family

Area residents are organizing a benefit to help a Selby area family in the battle against a rare disease that has inflicted Taelyn Hettick, a kindergartner at Selby Area School.
She is the daughter of Chris and Alexis Hettick who are both teachers at the Selby Area School. Chris is also a football, basketball, and golf coach and Alexis teaches sixth grade. The Hetticks have three children, Tray, who is in seventh grade, Taryn, who is in third grade and Taelyn. They are a typical family with the kids involved in school activities. Tray and Taryn enjoy participating in sports and Taelyn is a ballerina.
The Hettick family is facing a medical situation that is a test of strength and faith. Taelyn has been diagnosed with Caroli disease, a rare and incurable disease that affects the kidneys, liver, and other organs. Caroli disease is a birth defect and the exact cause is unknown. The disease affects about one in 1 million people.
Antibiotics are used to treat the inflammation of the bile duct but the disease can be stemmed through organ transplantation.
Currently, the Hettick family is relying on specialists to decide on a plan of action for Taelyn’s care.
“We have three teams of doctors who are watching out for her,” said Alexis. “We feel it was God’s work that we found out when we did that she had this so she can get the help she needs.”
Taelyn is feeling good now, but it was a fever that sent the family to the Bowdle Clinic and medical personnel who picked up on some signs that it was something other than just a childhood illness, that led to the diagnosis of Caroli’s Disease.
“They took her blood and everything was low. They were worried about leukemia,” said Alexis. “There was also some swelling in her stomach so they took x-rays and discovered some other issues.”
Taelyn was sent to Sioux Falls where the doctors diagnosed her disease. She is also seeing a team of doctors at the Children’s Hospital in Minnesota. Taelyn has been put on a transplant list and can be matched with a suitable donor sometime in the future.
Taelyn takes daily medications and vitamins to help with her nutritional needs, as her liver does not function correctly. Her mother said she is feeling really good right now, but they are taking extra precautions to keep her from getting colds or the flu.
Alexis said the family’s faith is getting them through the difficult times and that her daughter has a strong relationship with God.
“We know that God cannot protect us from all the evil here on Earth, but He can help us get through it, and He can use bad to bring about good,” Alexis said. “She (Taelyn) prays and talks to Him often. We feel that God has a special purpose for her to share her faith with others so others come to know Him. She knows He loves her and is going to take care of her.”
The Selby area community is rallying around the Hettick family to help raise funds to help defray medical costs and travel expenses. There will be a benefit on Sunday, Feb. 11, at the Selby Area School with a meal and silent and live auctions of donated items. The meal will be served from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. with the auctions to follow.
Donations for the benefit have been pouring in and include a wide variety of items from hand-sewn quilts and crocheted afghans to sides of beef and pork. There are several guns to auction and sports memorabilia from the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits, including a football helmet and jersey signed by coach John Steigelmeier. There are Minnesota Vikings photos and signed equipment, plus items from other professional and college teams.
Also up for auction are gift certificates from various merchants in the area and travel packages including hotel stays. There are gift certificates for a two-night stay and guided fishing tour from Bridge City Marina and a three-night package to the North Dakota Music Festival.
The most unique of the donated items comes from the Gosch family farms. A stud colt and a filly, born in April and May, will be auctioned. The horses are bred to work with cattle and come from a strong lineage from a Texas horse ranch.
There is also a benefit account set up at BankWest in Selby.
Benefit organizer Kim Biel said Thrivent and National Mutual Benefit Herreid Branch 99 would also match funds from the benefit.
Alexis said the kindness and support of the people of the community have been wonderful, and the family has been overwhelmed at the kindness of their community.
Anyone interested in donating items or making a monetary donation, may contact Kara Eisemann at the Selby Area School, at 605-649-7818 with auction Items and for monetary donations, Wayne Schmidt at BankWest at 605-649-7272.
– Katie Zerr –