Nicole Wiegers: A Crusader, In Every Sense of the Word
High School graduation is around the corner. A handful of members from our community excitedly prepare to leave behind the hallways, locker rooms, and cafeterias of their high schools and transition to the next phase of their lives, be it a college campus, a job, travel, or a well-deserved sabbatical. HA takes our hat off to all of you…and also takes a moment (or, in this case, a blog or two) to highlight some seniors who have made an impact in their own communities and in our larger hydrocephalus community.
On February 19th and 20th, during the last regulation home game for the men and women, the Whitinsville Christian basketball squad celebrated “Senior Night” to honor the athletic careers of the graduating seniors.
For senior Crusader, Nicole Wiegers, this night had even greater significance. Nicole’s team used the monumental night to raise awareness about hydrocephalus.
Wiegers was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at two months, after being born 14 weeks early, and has a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt. The past year and a half have been tough for her, as her shunt has malfunctioned repeatedly, resulting in 11 surgeries to revise her shunt. As a result of the hospitalizations and procedures, Wiegers had to miss half of last basketball season and all of this season. Despite all of these complications, she still remained an integral part of the Whitinsville varsity basketball team. She maintained a positive attitude, and served as a source of inspiration for her teammates.
“The Whitinsville Christian girls basketball team has been missing a key player from their lineup for the past two seasons,” stated her coach, Kris VandenAkker. “Nicole has been so devoted to the team even though she has been in and out of the hospital dealing with her hydrocephalus condition. Nicole has had such a great spirit through out the past two years even though she has had so many set backs. Earlier this season a few of her teammates thought it would be special to have an awareness night where we would honor Nicole and try to bring awareness of hydrocephalus to Nicole’s school community.”
Nicole’s team decided to use her school’s “Senior Night” to share her story, expose the community to some of the challenges of living with hydrocephalus, and to raise money to fund hydrocephalus research. Wiegers and her family contacted the Hydrocephalus Association (HA) to help set the event into motion. HA provided educational posters, pamphlets, and fact sheets about hydrocephalus to support the team in raising awareness.
During both the boy’s and girl’s contest, HA’s fact sheets were put inside each program so that everyone walking into the gymnasium could get a better understanding of hydrocephalus. Wiegers’ teammates made t-shirts with “hydrocephalus” on the front and Nicole’s name on the sleeve. The educational posters were spread across the gymnasium as an additional means of raising awareness. Everyone attending that evening, from the referees to the visiting team, left with a better understanding of the multitude of obstacles Wiegers has gallantly overcome as a result of living with an incurable neurological condition.
The event successfully raised over $1,000 dollars in donations. The money has been presented to the Hydrocephalus Association to further advance the association’s research initiative to find better treatment options and, ultimately, a cure.
“It brought me so much joy when my basketball team decided to raise money to support the Hydrocephalus Association for Senior Night,” shared Wiegers. “On this night, even though I couldn’t play in the game, my feet flew across the court during warm-ups, and my teammates flew for me during the game! It felt like all my yearnings to play were fueled into them, they played great and won the game. I am extremely thankful for this opportunity to help raise awareness and money for more research, and the ability to join my team in helping people understand hydrocephalus.”
For Nicole Wiegers, “Senior Night” was more than just an opportunity to revel in the successes of her athletic career. It was a celebration of life, triumph, and strength. With the support of her family, teammates, school, and the community at large, Wiegers was able to prevail in spite of major setbacks. Her passion for the game, her resiliency to multiple surgeries, and her Whitinsville Christian pride is something that everyone will remember for many years beyond her time as a Crusader. She is an inspiration to athletes, students, parents, and to the entire hydrocephalus community.
Resources for Teens and Young Adults
Teens Take Charge (TTC)
The Hydrocephalus Association’s new program – Teens Take Charge (TTC) – trains teenagers and young adults (and their siblings), who are affected by hydrocephalus, to become self-advocates with both health professionals and with their legislators. The program provides support, trainings, and awareness and fundraising opportunities so that teens can be an effective force in making their stories heard. HA has created a place for teens and young adults (ages 12 to 25) to talk via Facebook and Twitter; go check it out! Join us and help create a community of teens making changes happen!