Community rallies around teen fighting rare blood disease

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INDIANAPOLIS –  A Central Indiana community is rallying around a teenager recently diagnosed with a rare blood disease.

Sixteen-year-old Nigel Schonfeld of Shelbyville is currently being treated for Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria (PNH) at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Heath.

The disease is extremely rare. It causes patients to have difficulty producing blood.

“There’s only five people in the U.S. who get this a year,” explained Schonfeld from his hospital bed.

Wearing a Colts t-shirt, Schonfeld showed Fox 59 the red streaks on his arm caused by the disease.

“It looks really weird,” he said as he pointed. “It looks like I just got beat up and dragged down the road.”

Schonfeld first noticed something was wrong after a Shelbyville High School football game against New Palestine in early October. He underwent blood testing and when the results came in, he was rushed to Riley.

“I thought it was just a rash at first and then it turned out to be something worse,” said Schonfeld. “It’s just bleeding underneath the skin where your veins are leaking.”

He just finished chemotherapy treatment, but now Schonfeld needs a bone marrow transplant. What makes everything even more difficult, his mother, Barbara Reddick, is battling breast cancer. She is scheduled to undergo a double mastectomy later this month.

“It’s kinda sad, but at the same time, you know, we both have each other’s back,” said Schonfeld.

His friends, football team, and coaches also have his back. Many of them have stopped by the hospital to raise his spirits. They are also raising funds to help his family cover his medical expenses and borrowing a page from the Colts playbook to create #nigelstrong to spread awareness about his battle.

“It’s just amazing… I mean you’re more than just a team, more than just friends,” he explained. “It’s a big family.”

He hopes someone out there will get tested and be the right match; if not for him, then for someone in need.

“It may not be a match for me, but you can be a match for anybody. And one of these days you might be one of those people that may need a bone marrow match and someone’s gonna be there for you.”

To learn more about the efforts to help Schonfeld and his family, click here.