Melissa Kieffer is an incredible young woman!
Born in 1990, Melissa was not diagnosed with a mitochondrial disease until she was 20 years old. Since receiving that diagnosis in 2012, Melissa has made it her life’s work to raise money to find a cure for mitochondrial disease. Melissa is a talented artist who hand-stamps greeting cards for friends and family. Her cards brighten the world for thousands of people while raising money to support mitochondrial research through the UMDF.
As an active past participant in multiple Energy for Life walks (Twin Cities, Charlotte, and most recently Central Texas), Melissa has further dedicated her time and energy to support the finding of the cure for these devastating diseases.
Melissa has an incredible life story. Born in Minnesota she led a pretty normal childhood. She was a smart, bright, and talented child (albeit a little on the small side). Her doctors were always cognizant of her small stature, but just concluded she was “on her own little growth curve” and did not recognize the early onset of her symptoms.
In her teen years, Melissa had a unique opportunity to travel the world with her family. Between the ages of 9 and 16, she visited dozens of countries on five continents while she and her family lived in Singapore and Budapest, Hungary. During those years, Melissa spent a lot of time experiencing exotic places and making friends with wonderful people from around the world.
It was not until Melissa’s sophomore year in college, after returning to the US, at the University of Wisconsin in River Falls that things started to happen that ultimately revealed her mitochondrial disease. During the summer of 2011, Melissa was working as a hostess at a restaurant in Minnesota to earn money to help fund her education. After an evening shift, she came home and that evening lost her left side vision and ended up in the emergency room where it was determined that she was having a non-complicated seizure in an area of her brain that affects her vision. While the doctors calmed the seizure and her vision came back after a few days, there was still no confirmed diagnosis of anything at that point.
After several progressively more complicated seizures and six months of painstaking tests at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Melissa’s diagnosis of MELAS (Mitochondrial Encephalopathy, Lactic Acidosis, and Stroke-like episodes) was finally confirmed through bio-samples analyzed at Baylor University in the spring of 2012.
As a 21-year-old woman, Melissa had some important changes to deal with at that point in her life. She could go positive, or she could go negative with her attitude and life. Melissa chose the positive choice and since then has set some important priorities in her life. Melissa has fun with her family and her “wing-man” Minnie (seen here with her in the photo). She has dedicated her talents and a lot of her remaining energy to her card-making to raise money for the UMDF research efforts, and she brightens the lives of many people both directly and indirectly through her fun and colorful greeting cards.
Please join Melissa in her efforts to “Find the Cure” for all types of mitochondrial diseases by donating to her research fund via this web page.
The United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (UMDF) was formed by families affected by mitochondrial disease. The Foundation provides support to families and funds mitochondrial disease research. Since 1996, the UMDF has funded more than $11 million in research projects aimed at finding better treatments for mitochondrial diseases, with the ultimate goal of a cure. This research has increased the understanding of mitochondrial function, improved diagnosis and moved us closer to treatments and, ultimately, a cure for those who face this devastating disease.
Mitochondria produce more than 90 percent of the body’s energy. When these tiny parts of the cell can’t do their job, the body doesn’t get the energy it needs, resulting in a wide range of debilitating and sometimes fatal symptoms. Every 30 minutes, a child is born who will develop a mitochondrial disease by age 10. Each year, 1,000 to 4,000 children in the United States are born with a mitochondrial disease. While exact numbers of children and adults suffering from mitochondrial disease are hard to determine, we now know the disease is approaching the frequency of childhood cancers. Many people who suffer from mitochondrial disease are frequently misdiagnosed due to a lack of specialists. This is why we need your support.