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, the team used the monumental night to raise awareness about a neurological condition called hydrocephalus that Nicole lives with every day and to raise money for research to find a cure.
Bethesda, MD | May 08, 2013
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 a neurological condition called hydrocephalus.
Hydrocephalus is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles of the brain. If left untreated, the excess fluid has the potential to cause brain damage, as well as physical and cognitive impairments. The only treatment for hydrocephalus is brain surgery. During surgery, a device called a “shunt” is inserted into the body to drain the extra fluid away from the brain. Shunts can malfunction or become infected, requiring additional surgeries to revise the shunt. At present, there is no cure for hydrocephalus. The only treatment option is brain surgery.
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 thoughout 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), a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating the challenges of hydrocephalus, 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 amassed 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.
About the Hydrocephalus Association
The Hydrocephalus Association (HA) is a charitable non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating the challenges of hydrocephalus by stimulating research and supporting people who are affected by this condition. Incorporated in 1986, HA is now the nation’s largest and most widely respected organization dedicated solely to serving those affected by hydrocephalus. HA has been instrumental in creating a community of individuals, families and health care professionals addressing the complexities of hydrocephalus in all age groups. In 2009, HA launched its Research Initiative and has funded $2 million in research to enhance the understanding of this complex condition as well as to find better treatment options and, ultimately, a cure.