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St. Louis teen fighting a mystery illness for nearly a year

"Things can change in an instant. This was not on our radar."

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis teenager Erin Kelley is living with a medical mystery. She’s been fighting an illness for nearly a year. She has had blood transfusions and even a bone marrow biopsy but still no real answer as to what is ailing her.

It all started a few weeks after she graduated high school in 2021.

“This all happened June 13th," said Erin. "Woke up in horrible pain.”

The pain would change her life.

“Things can change in an instant. This was not on our radar,” said Erin’s mother Melissa Kelley. 

Erin quickly went from the excitement of graduating to the battle of her life.

“She had significant pain that just continued to progress throughout the day. She went into septic shock and it was terrifying,” said Melissa.

Erin would spend weeks at St Louis Children’s Hospital. 

“We were at the hospital for a month,” said Erin.

“I remember just watching those monitors,” said Melissa.

The septic shock took a toll on Erin’s internal organs.

“Her kidneys took the hit and completely failed,” said Melissa.

The fear of what was happening to her daughter took a mental toll on mom.  

“I remember thinking about am I, am I going to be planning a funeral,” said Mellissa.

The thoughts happening while doctors were still trying to determine exactly why Erin had gotten so sick.

Credit: Melissa Kelley
A St. Louis teen has been in and out of the hospital with a mystery illness.

“They’ve done so many tests,” said Erin.  

“There are certainly days where it feels like it will never end,” said Melissa.

Yet through all the tests and the uncertainties, Erin has remained positive and inspired.

“Desire to just fully live this life is what has gotten her to this point,” said Melissa.

Erin is at the point of starting a new beginning and finally realizing her dream. The dream of going to college. Even though she admits she still doesn’t “feel great”, she is going to attend Saint Louis University.  

“I’ll be a freshman. My hope for the future is that I can go to college and thrive there,” said Erin.

She is hoping to thrive in the face of adversity.  But she also believes she is wiser because of what she is going through. 

“If I’ve learned anything is that we are not in control,” said Erin.

While they’re still working on an exact diagnosis, Melissa said the doctors have ruled out cancer. But because Erin’s kidneys are only functioning at 40% after going through septic shock, she will need a kidney transplant one day. 

But Erin appreciates every day she has no matter how she is feeling.  

“It may not be what I expected. My goals are going to take longer than I thought they would. But I still get to do that and I’m grateful for that,” said Erin.