Credit: Michael Becker/FOX

Phillip Phillips is a champ in more ways than one.

The 21-year-old pawn shop employee from Leesburg, Ga. beat frontrunner Jessica Sanchez to become the season 11 winner of American Idol on Wednesday night, and quietly confirmed that he'll undergo surgery before the FOX show's live tour kicks off in July.

And, indeed, Phillips has battled serious kidney problems throughout his life and throughout his victorious time on American Idol.

"He'a been hiding the full extent of his problems from the public, but he was actually born with only one functioning kidney," explains one show insider to Us Weekly.

Phillips even called upon the help of his girlfriend, nursing student Hannah Blackman, during the final-9 portion of the show. "She has medical training," the insider explains. "She takes care of him and is always there in case he needs help. She's so sweet and truly cares for him."

Last Friday, Phillips was late for finale rehearsals because of a visit to the hospital, where he was administered with IV fluids. "But he still came to work right after," marvels the insider. "He is in a lot of pain constantly, " continues the source "but he'd hate anyone to feel sorry for him, and never wanted to be popular because of it. He's amazing."