Bradee Wilzbacher

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Bradee Wilzbacher, Haubstadt, Ind.

When Bree Wilzbacher used to take the pitcher’s mound during Gibson Southern High School softball games near Evansville, she would glance down at her glove to see “No Fear—BRMW.” That was enough to carry her through even the toughest game. BRMW are her sister Bradee’s initials, and “No Fear” is how the 13-year-old approaches life. “Bradee is a very special girl,” says her mother Jan.

This hard-working, well-liked eighth grader at Haubstadt Community School has the kind of infectious personality that inspires everyone she meets. “Whether she’s dancing, cheering or just making her friends laugh, she just always seems happy,” Jan added. “She doesn’t let anything stop her.” Bradee has kept high spirits in spite of a difficult obstacle. She has Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease which often causes abdominal pain and distress, fatigue and weight loss.

The problems began when Bradee was four 4 years old. Dr. Robert Ransdell, the family’s pediatrician, eventually referred her to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. When Jan and her husband Dan arrived at Riley with their 5-year-old daughter, she only weighed 29 pounds. After a series of tests, Riley Pediatric Gastroenterologist Girish Subbarao, M.D., diagnosed her with Crohn’s disease. The diagnosis and her experiences at Riley were life-changing. “Dr. Subbarao let us know from the start Bradee was going to be able to manage this,” Jan says. “He was always around, answering our questions and staying on top of everything.” Bradee required several hospital stays but was never alone. “Child Life really stepped it up,” Jan said.

“Someone came every day, helping me with my homework, art projects or just to talk,” Bradee added. 

This energetic teen keeps a positive attitude and a busy schedule despite her challenges, even performing in a dance competition just hours after undergoing a medical procedure. She and her family have participated in multiple Riley Dance Marathons, raising more than $5,300 for Riley. She continues to endure regular shots and monthly three-hour treks to Riley for appointments, but she doesn’t complain. Someday she hopes to be a labor and delivery nurse so she can continue to make a difference.

“Because of Riley, I am a whole new person,” Bradee explains. “The doctors and nurses have taught me that no matter what, you can never give up.”

No fear, no exceptions. That’s the mark of a true champion.

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