In his own words…
Recipient Brad Weischedel’s speech from the CFL June 2011 Golf Outing.
My name is Brad Weischedel. I just graduated from Mars High School and I plan on attending Clarion in the fall. I would like to tell you a little bit about what has brought me here today. My junior year I broke my ankle in my first scrimmage of the football season. I was sidelined for more than half of the season. I went to physical therapy four days a week to get my ankle back so that I could return to the football field as soon as possible. I got cleared with four games left and got my starting position back as a strong safety. After missing the majority of my junior football season, I was really looking forward to my senior season. In the spring, I was lifting weights and going to football training and conditioning on a regular basis, preparing for the upcoming season. Memorial day weekend of my junior year, my dad and I went to Las Vegas to watch a UFC fight, of which I am a big fan. While in Vegas, on the morning of the fight, I got a really bad stomach virus. I went to the fight, but I couldn’t enjoy it. The next day I flew home and I continued vomiting all night – with my mom by my side helping me through the night. The next couple of days I started to feel better, and I thought that was the end of it.
A few weeks after my virus in the summer, I had a basketball scrimmage in the morning. I woke up and in the shower I noticed my toes and fingers were tingly and numb. My initial thought was that I just maybe slept on them wrong, but on my way to the scrimmage, the tingling feeling did not go away. At the gym I was stretching and felt fine, but them we started to do lay ups and I noticed right away that something was wrong. I couldn’t run full speed and I could barely jump. As a result, my performance was horrible and my coach let me know it. Football practices weren’t any better. I had to just watch as my friends practiced. As the days went on, I noticed that I was becoming a lot weaker and had trouble with my daily routines, such as showering and getting dressed. Putting on my socks was the hardest thing to do. Throughout this experience, my parents took me to urgent care and to the emergency room twice where they preformed numerous tests to figure out what was going on, but each time the result was the same. No one knew what was wrong with me. This was very frustrating because I knew something was seriously wrong and I felt as if no one could help me at the time. I had family over one day and my cousin needed help carrying a fifteen-pound bag of ice. I carried it for her and it was literally too heavy for me. I fell on the steps and looked at my mom for help. At that point, my parents and I both knew we had to find out what was really going on. The next morning I went to my pediatrician. He performed a thorough evaluation and discovered I had no reflexes. He suspected I had Guillain Barre Syndrome, a serious autoimmune disease that can lead to paralysis or even death. It was pretty rare; only one out of one hundred thousand people contract this disease.
I was immediately sent to Children’s Hospital where they performed more tests to confirm the Guillain Barre. It turned out that it was the result of the virus that I had in Las Vegas. While in the hospital, I was treated with intravenous antibodies, which counteracted my disease. While in the hospital, they heard a heart murmur, so they did a sonogram of my heart and discovered that I have a congenital heart disease called Bicuspid Aortic Valve, which means my aortic valve has two openings instead of three. This was a complete shock to us because the doctor told us that I was born with it and it had gone undetected for all of these years. As a result, I am on heart medicine and someday I will have to get my valve replaced.
When I got out of the hospital, all I could think about was – will I be allowed to play sports? The cardiologist told me they would have to do further testing to see if I would be allowed to play. In the meantime, I was doing physical therapy several times a week to regain strength and get my fine and gross motor skills back to normal. After being cleared from my Guillain Barre Syndrome, I went to a personal trainer to get strong for the upcoming football season. While training, I was still unsure if I was even allowed to play football. Then, on August 10, 2010, the day before my birthday, I got a call from my cardiologist saying that I could play football and basketball my senior year. It was one of the happiest days of my life. My family and I were so excited! I thank God for helping me to get through this experience and my parents and grandparents for making the experience a little easier.
This past Memorial Day, which was one year after I got sick, I had the experience of a lifetime – but this was a positive one! Thanks to the Courage For Life Foundation, I was given the opportunity to go back to Las Vegas and see another UFC fight, but this time I got to really enjoy the fight! The Courage For Life Foundation also arranged for me to meet a lot of the UFC celebrities plus they treated us to a fabulous steak dinner at the 9 Steakhouse. We were living the dream and none of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for this Foundation. I want to take this time to say thank you so much to Mr. Challis and all of the Courage for Life board members for making my dream come true. My story is nothing compared to what John Challis and his family went through. His positive attitude and perseverance through and unimaginable struggle is what courage is all about. Courage + Believe = Life.