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In August 2016, she started having abdominal pain, extreme fatigue and lightheadedness. But the end of that year, she was suffering through episodes of nausea and vomiting. Doctors ran tests that all came back fine. So they told Mihkenna and her mother that it was just stress or something emotional.

She wound up hospitalized this April with severe dehydration and a potassium deficiency, because she literally could not keep any food down. Merrill said doctors ran tests again, but nothing was conclusive. Doctors thought Mihkenna had an eating disorder, but Mihkenna and her mother adamantly denied that. At one point a doctor said Mihkenna’s ailments were psychosomatic, and told Mihkenna she could get better whenever she decided.

Mihkenna’s condition only worsened, resulting in a feeding tube — that didn’t work — and finally a peripherally inserted central catheter, or PICC line. Though the PICC line supplied her with much-needed nutrition, Mihkenna continued to suffer fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, bloating and constant abdominal pain.

For most of 2017, Mihkenna nibbled at food, and could not attend school due to her condition. Through it all, she knew she had to eat — even just a few bites a day — though it pained her stomach and it most likely would come right back up. So, for much of the time, she chose things based on how they tasted, or how little they hurt, coming back up. The past year, she explained, was “H-E-double hockey sticks.”

Finally in November, they saw a new doctor, who diagnosed Mihkenna with two rare conditions: median arcuate ligament syndrome, or MALS, where the celiac artery is compressed, causing severe abdominal pain; and superior mesenteric artery syndrome, or SMAS, which created an obstruction in her small intestine. With this diagnosis, Mihkenna and her mother finally found hope.

Mihkenna Merrill’s surgery was not covered by the Merrill’s insurance, and cost almost $40,000, which her mother had to secure a loan to pay for up front. Dara Merrill is also still paying for a year’s worth of doctor visits and hospital stays for her daughter while they searched for answers. The Merrill’s neighbors, friends and others in the Springville community have rallied behind them, contributing to a GoFundMe account, www.gofundme.com/medical-fund-for-mihkenna, set up for Mihkenna’s medical expenses.

“When we heard the story about Mihkenna and her health issues, we wanted to help her and her family,” Ruth Morrison said. “The last day Funfinity is open before Christmas is always a big day for us. Our family decided that donating the profits from Saturday would be a great way to share the Christmas spirit of giving.”

According to Jim Morrison, they earned $1,600 Saturday, and an additional $2300 in community donations came in as well. Other members of the community also sold homemade Christmas decorations and auctioned off items provided by Grimm Lock Wands, Warrior’s Way, Avia Salon, K2 Creations, and various local businesses Saturday outside Funfinity to raise money for Mihkenna.