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Rare illness strikes popular Twin Cities writer Liz Welle

A GoFundMe raised more than $23,000 in half a day.

A popular Twin Cities writer is battling a rare disease that started as a headache and led to intubation, chemotherapy, and a three-week hospital stay.

Liz Welle - who you might know on Twitter as @lizwelle - is a freelancer, creator of #bookclubforintroverts which raises money for a cause each month, and also co-host of a YouTube show called "Coping Lessons."

According to a GoFundMe posted Monday, the ordeal started with a headache on March 8 that turned into a fever and exhaustion. A trip to urgent care a few days later didn't help, and she went back to the emergency room where she was admitted immediately.

The initial diagnosis was viral meningitis.

"But - something wasn’t right," the GoFundMe explains. "Her body wasn’t fighting the infection, and her liver and kidneys were failing. She was moved to the ICU., She wasn’t getting better. She began having trouble breathing. Three days later, on March 15th, she was intubated."

It turned out to be hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a rare immune-related disease that one paper describes as "aggressive and life-threatening syndrome."

What happens with HLH is a couple types of white blood cells go haywire and begin attacking the body's other good blood cells, Hopkins Medicine explains. Those cells then collect in the spleen and liver, causing both organs to enlarge. It can lead to serious, fatal issues with breathing, the digestive system, and the nervous system.

The disease usually occurs in children, but can sometimes present in adults as well, Hopkins Medicine adds.  It can also be caused by  another issue, such as an infection or cancer.

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Welle is back at home after having started chemotherapy on March 20. And while she has insurance, as a freelancer, she's had no income for weeks, the GoFundMe notes. The money raised will help Welle cover the medical costs.

"We want her to focus on getting well, and not on the added stress of covering medical and living expenses with no active income," the GoFundMe adds.

The fundraiser brought in more than the $20,000 goal within the first few hours. It's now up to nearly $24,000 about 14 hours after being posted.

Friends and supporters on Twitter are sharing their thoughts.

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