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MARBLE FALLS — When Marble Falls High School junior Nathan Short talks about his former football teammate Blake Ripple, he uses words that go beyond just being friends.

“He’s my brother, and I don’t want anything to happen to him,” Short said.

Nathan Short (left), Megan Short and Theisa Short assemble fundraiser jars to help former Marble Falls Mustang football player Blake Ripple and his family. In May 2010, Mayo Clinic doctors diagnosed Blake with autonomic dysfunction which disrupts many of the body’s involuntary functions. Even a year later, Blake Ripple must make several trips a week to Austin for treatment and must return to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. The Shorts are placing the jars in businesses around the community. An account to help with Ripple’s medical costs is set up at American Bank of Texas, 418 U.S. 281 in Marble Falls. Staff photo by Connie Swinney

Short and his family, who own Short Electronics at 801 RR 1431 in Marble Falls, are organizing fundraisers to help the Ripple family as Blake undergoes medical treatment — including trips to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. — for autonomic dysfunction.

The condition refers to a number of diseases that disrupt involuntary body functions including heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, gastrointestinal secretion and metabolic and endocrine responses to stress such as the “fight or flight” syndrome, according to published reports.

Blake still suffers from the disease

“I spoke with (Blake’s mother) Lori the other day, and they’re making two or three trips a week into Austin,” said Theisa Short, Nathan’s mother. “She said for Blake to get ready for church, it took about two hours.”

The Shorts are setting up jars at businesses around town for donations, helping establish an account in Blake’s name at American Bank of Texas, 418 U.S. 281 in Marble Falls, and possibly holding a walk-a-thon in the future.

“We might even have bake sale,” Theisa Short said. “I’m all new to this.”

Blake, 19, began noticing something wasn’t right during a football game Oct. 9, 2009, against Killeen. He found himself dealing with a headache during the contest.

But at the time, it didn’t seem like such a problem.

Two weeks later, it became apparent there was something wrong. During a last-second stand against the Lampasas Badgers, Blake collided with an opposing lineman at the goal line. Though he didn’t fall down, a teammate noticed something was wrong.

Blake was transported to Seton Highland Lakes in Burnet with the classic signs of a concussion. A car accident in December 2009, sent Blake back to the hospital where doctors discovered five tumors — three benign, but physicians couldn’t determine what the other two were.

In March 2010, surgeons at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin removed the two remaining masses which had trace amounts of papillary thyroid cancer. After the procedure, Blake was cancer free.

But he continued to complain of headaches, dizziness and even suffered from black outs. His urine also took on an orange color.

Even after many tests and consultations with Central Texas doctors, the Ripples were left with nothing but more questions.

By May 2010, the Ripples were at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota still searching for answers. It was here where Blake learned he has autonomic dysfunction. The disease was only discovered the year before — by Blake’s Mayo Clinic physician Dr. Phillip Fisher.

It’s been more than a year since his diagnosis, but Theisa Short said Blake still endures the disease. She said the family has financially stretched itself with the medical treatments and still needs to get Blake back to the Mayo Clinic.

“My heart strings feel pulled for (the Ripples),” she said. “I feel I have to do something for them.”

Nathan said he hopes the community will step up for his former teammate.

“The community gives a lot, and we’re just asking for a little bit more,” he said. “I just wish I could take it away from him. It makes my heart crumble.

“He’s only 19, and he still has a whole life ahead of him,” Nathan said.


Tribune Headline News reporter Connie Swinney contributed to this article.