15th Annual Grace Lutheran Fish Fry benefits local 12-year-old

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 7, 2023

Khloe Kioukis loves to go to school. She is 12 years old and attends China Grove Middle School when she can. Khloe loves people, has a bubbly attitude and wants to help and hug, according to her mother, Amanda. Numerous health obstacles since birth make her the recipient of all proceeds from the Grace Lutheran Church Fish Fry to be held on Oct. 14.

Khloe and her brother, JT, are twins and were born on April 14, 2011. Serious problems with the pregnancy at 29 weeks caused Amanda to spend the last five weeks in the hospital. Medical staff noticed problems with Khloe’s heart rate which was sometimes hard to locate at all. The birth was induced and both babies were born OK. Later, doctors determined that Khloe had been deprived of oxygen at times while in the womb.

Khloe nearly drowned in a friend’s pool at age 5. She had no heart rate, turned blue and coded two times before being put on life support. Amanda said, “She’s 12 but is well behind her peers, and is now essentially on the level of a 6-year-old. She has epilepsy with seizures that began in 2021. Her heart can race upwards of 130 beats a minute while her blood pressure plummets. Testing and monitoring at school began during her fourth grade year. We began to suspect a condition called POTS and were able to find a specialist at Johns Hopkins who confirmed the diagnosis.”

POTS is a form of dysautonomia — a disorder of the autonomic nervous system. This branch of the nervous system regulates functions we don’t consciously control, such as heart rate, blood pressure, sweating and body temperature. The key characteristics of POTS are the specific symptoms and the exaggerated increase in heart rate when standing.

Khloe also has FND, or Functional Neurological Disorder. Amanda said, “The brain is in fight or flight mode. Hormones are affected. Khloe became so violent and too much to handle in the fourth grade that she couldn’t finish. Khloe began to wonder about what was happening to her and became flustered and aggravated.”

Teachers used a buddy system to help Khloe with transitions in school. Another student went with her, and Amanda often helped too. Khloe fell one day and had involuntary moments of hitting, kicking and hissing towards those around her. She regularly will lose consciousness during a conversation or other activity.

Back in school in the sixth grade, she must wear a helmet and use a wheelchair. Originally with one caretaker, she now has two. Khloe can’t attend school often, so Amanda can’t work a regular job so that she is available for home care.

Khloe’s parents want her to have a full life. Khloe is a cheerleader for YFL Football. Yet Amanda says, “Khloe will sleep for hours after school, her mind and body worn out. Kids with special needs should still have all the experiences that other kids get. We see her doing amazing things!”

Khloe’s dad, Tony, said, “She is my princess and puts so much joy in my life daily. We want her to be happy and become anything she sets her mind to. Seeing her smile and make it through each day brings joy to our hearts.”

Treatments for Khloe are often not covered by insurance and include extensive travel. Amanda’s need to be available for Khloe throughout the day has also strained family finances.

Mike Yost heads up the fish fry and is excited for this year’s edition, He said, “We’ve been working on the fish fry since February and all our committee members want this one to be the best yet. Our new pastor, Joshua Copeland, calls the fish fry a community ministry. Most of our members and many others in the community will be working hard until the completion of the event. Khloe and her family live very close to the church, so we had several people suggest her as the recipient of this year’s funds. She has already touched us all in such a special way.”

A John Deere Gator, a 12-gauge shotgun and a 22 Magnum with scope will be raffled, as will dozens of baskets of interesting items. All those drawings will be done at 8 p.m., but participants don’t have to be present to win.

Co-chair Robin Bernhardt said, “People say they look forward to coming back for the fish fry every year, and don’t want us to change a thing because it works. It’s a gathering where people catch up with others. Gator tickets are still for sale and we are expecting to have 100 cakes for sale.”

An adult plate of fish includes fries, slaw, dessert and a drink for those who dine in and is $15. Drinks are not included with pick-up orders, but the menu is the same. A child’s fish or hot dog plate is $7. Dine in, carry out and drive through are all available. There is plenty of parking and a shuttle service from those lots. Serving begins at 4 p.m. and will run until approximately 8 p.m.

Call Yost for more information including how to make a donation at 704-213-1262.