Tackled By A Rare Condition

. April 30, 2019.
Andrew Burnett just before he was diagnosed with Henoch Schönlein Purpura in 2015. Photo credit Peggy Burnett.
Andrew Burnett just before he was diagnosed with Henoch Schönlein Purpura in 2015. Photo credit Peggy Burnett.

It may be unusual for a high school lineman to score touchdowns— one while playing for his freshman team and he other as a highlight of his senior season— but Andrew Burnett bookended his time playing for the Arlington Red Devils with two TDs. Although both of his freshman and senior seasons proved memorable, it’s the time that occurred between these milestones that best displays Burnett’s endurance and strengths.

In December of 2014, in the midst of his 8th grade year at Arlington Local School, Andrew’s legs became covered by a raised, purplish skin rash that resembled bruises and his feet became swollen. Initially, an allergy was suspected and Burnett, or “Burnie” as he’s known by his teammates, was prescribed steroids to relieve the inflammation and pain. The prescription seemed to clear up the condition within a couple of weeks.

A holiday season in the hospital

Just before the holidays in December of 2015, Andrew’s visit to a local doctor resulted in what was thought to be strep throat, then bringing about a more serious discovery when blood was found in a routine urine test. His parents, Mike and Peggy Burnett, were directed to drive Andrew to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus immediately.

It was there that Henoch-Schönlein Purpura became a part of the family’s personal lexicon. Henoch-Schönlein Purpura is a form of vasculitis—a family of rare disorders characterized by inflammation of the blood vessels, which can restrict blood flow and damage vital organs and tissues. Dr. Neha Dhranga, a nephrologist formerly at Nationwide, delivered the diagnosis and prescribed an aggressive six months of steroid treatments in order to save Andrew’s kidneys. The unusual rash the year before had actually been the first sign of the true problem, and within months after that vital clue was missed, HSP had scarred his kidneys, inciting irreversible damage.

In hindsight, Mike and Peggy Burnett say their biggest lesson is to better trust their instincts and to seek out second opinions more aggressively when a child is exhibiting unusual medical symptoms.

Headed towards new goals

Burnett continued to be sidelined for his sophomore year of football. Instead of sports, he turned his attention to AHS choir activities and his Boy Scout troop #318. He credits Scout Master, Dave Sielschott, for inspiring him and motivating him to fight for a positive life beyond his condition— Andrew recently completed 165 hours of community service for his Eagle Scout project and chose to expand the Veteran’s Memorial area at Arlington’s Community Park to honor military sacrifices. Before his HSP diagnosis, it had been Burnett’s goal to someday enter the military, following in the footsteps of his grandfathers and a great-grandfather before him. He will be contacted regarding his Eagle Scout status upon the countcome of pending board reviews.

Although HSP altered his anticipated pathway, it has afforded him a new career goal. After his May 26th graduation from AHS, he will be a summer camp counselor with Pine Ridge Bible Camp in Cedar Springs, Michigan. He hopes it is the beginning of his future career in youth ministry or mentoring. He’d like to support struggling young people because so much help was poured into his own life.

A victorious spirit

Labeled as a teen who is an ‘overcomer’ by local youth pastor Scott Iams, Andrew humbly admits he hadn’t seen himself in that light. When asked what he is most proud of when reflecting on his four-year struggle, he points to how his relationship with God grew and how his faith was strengthened in the midst of challenges.

After an official medical release, Burnett was able to play football both his junior (2017) and senior (2018) seasons. When it comes to his kidneys, he will be on defense for the rest of his life with blood pressure medication and a serious need for hydration. Every six months he will visit a nephrologist and commit to annual cardiac examinations. Andrew also participates in medical studies related to HSP by donating blood, as the cause of the disease is still not entirely understood.