How a rare disease changed the lives of a local Illinois family

Local News

MARSHALL, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) — April is Adrenal Insufficiency Awareness month. For one local family, the last seven months have been anything but easy after the unexpected loss of their 21-year-old son to Addison’s Disease.

Drew Keown is remembered by friends and family as a lover of music, having a genuine smile and being one of the nicest guys to meet.

“He was just always so kind. He didn’t even have to think about it — he just was,” Kevin Keown, Drew’s father, recalled.

Kevin and his wife Stephanie have had days filled with grief, frustrations and questions after their son Drew Keown died unexpectedly. It’s a disease they never knew he had.

“He was a healthy kid, he was never sick, hardly had to go to the doctor for anything. It wasn’t genetic, it was just something that was in him,” Stephanie Keown said.

According to Dr. Denise Pine-Mattas with Cork Medical Center, one in 100,000 people contract Addison’s Disease.

“Addison’s Disease is Adrenal Insufficiency, which means the adrenal glands are not producing the hormones they should,” Pine-Mattas said.

Even though diagnosis typically occurs at a young age, it’s not uncommon to develop this disease later in life and for different reasons.

Some symptoms include low blood pressure, fatigue, lightheadedness and vomiting.

“We have to understand there are a lot of things that cause the same types of symptoms so it can be a very long process to be diagnosed with a rare disease,” Pine-Mattas said.

Drew had been to the doctor as recent as July, but after his check up the Keown’s say nothing abnormal returned in his results.

Drews family says the only visible symptoms due to Addison’s Disease appeared a few days before his death.

“It was the final crisis. He was fainting, he had fainting spells. He called us up and said he had been fainting. We got an appointment for him, but he didn’t make it,” Kevin Keown tearfully remembered.

Drew had gone into Adrenal Crisis and died in his home surrounded by his loved ones.

Drew was 21.

Among the things that give Drew’s family members comfort is that their son had made it home.

“For me the comfort is he didn’t do it to himself and he had no idea. He had no idea why he wasn’t feeling well that weekend,” Kevin Keown said. “It was peaceful, he slept through the night and he passed away surrounded by people who tried to help him and that loved him,” Stephanie Keown added.

Medical professionals have told the Keown’s that they have no idea how Drew made it home before his passing.

The Keown’s now hope to create awareness about Addison’s Disease and testing options available.

“We want to keep his memory alive and at the same time if we’re helping someone else out that’s great. It’s not going to bring him back, but hopefully you’re not having to do an interview like this with someone else about the same thing. That’s ultimately what we want to come out of this,” Kevin Keown said.

In Drew’s honor, the Marshall Schools Foundation created the Drew Keown Music Legacy Fund. All money collected will go towards scholarships for Marshall High School seniors wanting to play or study music in college and gifts for the Marshall Music Program.

Donations, checks payable should be made to The Marshall Schools Foundation, subject: The Drew Keown Legacy Fund.

Address: 503 Pine Street, Marshall, IL 62441.

Members for the Marshall School District created Marching4Drew, an organization that encourages everyone to do random acts of kindness for one another.

Below are resources regarding Adrenal Insufficiency:

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

National Adrenal Disease Foundation

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