LEWISTOWN - Michaela Nagel, of Lewistown, began chemotherapy when she was 18 months old. The treatments continued for seven years until the tumors in her brain were deemed chemo-resistant. Now 14 years old, she's had two major brain surgeries to remove growing tumors from the brain stem.
Michaela is one of the three Nagel children, out of four, living with Neurofibromatosis, a hereditary disease that causes growth of non-cancerous and cancerous tumors on nerve tissue, producing skin and bone abnormalities, neurological conditions and functional difficulty, according to kidshealth.org.
Michaela's brother Josiah, 17 years old, and sister Aunnah, 10 years old, also have the disease. They both went through chemotherapy when they were younger and have been stable since, said mother Andrea Nagel.
"We found out my husband had the disease, but it had never caused him any problems so we didn't know anything about it," Nagel said. "We didn't even know the kids had it until they started having symptoms and we took them to the doctor."
Since then, life has been a constant stream of doctor appointments, disease treatments, specialist visits and bills, Nagel said.
"Medical expenses on top of monthly bills can be overwhelming at times," Nagel said. "Our insurance just denied payment on Michaela's most recent surgery and we're in the appeal process right now. Without help from the community, we wouldn't have been able to afford it."
Everyone has been incredibly supportive, Nagel said, holding fundraising events, donating money and household items. The amount of support from the community has been unreal, she said.
Jean Berrier, a concerned citizen, heard about the Nagel family and decided to take action. A few weeks ago, she began organizing a benefit bingo and approaching local businesses for donations.
"It's heartbreaking to hear what this family has been through and continues to go through," Berrier said. "All proceeds from the bingo event will go straight to the family to pay for medical bills and other expenses."
The Nagel's Angels benefit bingo starts at 11 a.m. on Sunday at the Brooklyn Fire Co., 218 S. Main St., Lewistown. Bingo is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. and feature a Chinese auction and food for purchase.
For more information about the event or to donate to the family, contact Berrier at 242-2068. For more information about Neurofibromatosis, visit www.kidshealth.org.