Saturday, March 9th, 2013
By William Kincaid
Community reaches out to ill resident
CELINA - A young man beset with an incurable disease is not alone in his medical struggle.
The community has responded with an outpouring of love and support for 28-year-old Andy Giesige, who recently was hospitalized for complications from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
Businesses in Celina have posted messages asking people to pray for Giesige, a Facebook page called Prayers For Andy popped up this week and has attracted more than 3,300 members and a candlelight vigil is set for 9 p.m. tonight in front of the Mercer County Courthouse.
People contacted by the newspaper and posting on Facebook said Giesige, a store manager at Friendly Markets IGA, is a kind, warm-hearted man who's quick with a smile and prone to going out of his way to help others. He is the son of Fred and Ann Giesige.
"Andy is one of those kids (who's) always nice to everybody and always has a smile on his face," his stepmother Ann Giesige said Friday morning.
Giesige's biological mother, Teresa Barhorst Giesige, died when she was 30, and his older brother Brad died on Easter Sunday 2004, both from the same rare inherited disorder known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. The family learned of the disease after an autopsy was performed on Brad.
Ann Giesige described the ailment as a vascular, connective tissue disorder that results in fragile, weak veins and arteries given to aneurisms and ruptures. There is no cure for Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and complications are treated as they occur, she said.
Andy was hospitalized in Fort Wayne earlier this week. As of Friday morning, the family was experiencing a small ray of hope in his condition, she said.
The family is going second-to-second and day-to-day and considers each day with Andy a gift, she said.
Andy and his family were overwhelmed when they saw the community support and Facebook page.
"It's given Andy a lot of comfort," she said, adding he's also humbled.
She also hopes the support generated for Andy brings with it an awareness of the disorder.
Della Shively, who works at Friendly Markets IGA, said she couldn't ask for a better boss.
"He's an amazing guy," she said. "He's too young to be going through what he's going through."
It's been an emotional week at the market as almost every customer has inquired about Andy and offered their goodwill, she said.
Co-owner and uncle Dave Giesige said Andy was instrumental in getting the market up and running three-and-a-half years ago, often putting in as much as 90 hours a week. He is a key player in the store's operation - he manages, delivers and handles all technological aspects.
"I need the guy back in here," he said.
Noting that his nephew is fighting for his life, Dave Giesige recalled telling Andy to be brave and fight the fight.
He spoke of his nephew as a man with a care-free attitude beloved by his customers. He said Andy is open to helping people out and allows store credit for customers having a difficult time making ends meet.
Kim Elliot, who knows Andy as the manger at the IGA, set up the candlelight vigil with the help of other friends, including Nicole Rolfes Simmons.
"My heart was drawn to him, and I started a Facebook group (that) started with five people," she said.
As of Friday afternoon, Prayers For Andy - the page marked with a white bird - was closing in on 3,200 people.
Elliot said prayers are coming in from as far away as California, New Jersey and Japan.
In addition to being invited to the candlelight vigil tonight, the public is encouraged to leave their porch lights on in support of Andy.
Additional online stories for this date
Print edition only stories for this date
• Music to again fill Mendon Opera House
• The big ones aren't getting away from Grand Lake fishermen