A Muscatine teenager is the next University of Iowa “Kid Captain,” as the Hawkeyes football team tackles Northwestern Saturday, Nov. 6 in Evanston, Ill.
Bridgette Bissell and her twin sister, Madeline, were born prematurely in Texas, each weighing just 1.5 pounds. Madeline died shortly after birth, and Bridgette had surgery for retinopathy of prematurity, an eye disorder common in premature infants, according to a Wednesday release from UI.
When her family moved to Iowa when Bridgette was 1, she began seeing ophthalmologists and the developmental pediatrics team at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. They moved again when she was 3, but returned to Iowa 10 years later and live in Muscatine. Bridgette was later diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, which caused joint pain so severe she was in a wheelchair, but her health improved after she received treatment. She also has autism.
In 2019, Bridgette faced a different set of health issues, with digestive problems, joint pain and weight loss.
Doctors searched for an answer as her condition worsened, and after a number of tests she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease affecting the gastrointestinal tract, according to a Children’s Hospital feature on her.
“Crohn’s has been very rough on Bridgette,” her mother Suzanne said. “Her joint pain with Crohn’s got so bad that she couldn’t walk and had to use a wheelchair. We’ve seen many more specialists at the university to help get things under control.”
Bridgette had a feeding tube placed in January 2020, receives infusions for Crohn’s disease, and has since improved.
“Everyone was amazing,” her mother recalled. “The nurses in pre-op had Bridgette laughing even though she was nervous.”
Now 18, Bridgette enjoys bowling, Special Olympics, spending time with her pet rats and is a singer and musician.
In its 12th year, Kid Captain is a partnership between UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital and the Iowa Hawkeyes to honor pediatric patients and celebrate their inspirational stories. This year’s Kid Captains were selected for the 2020 season, which was later canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hospital administrators and infectious disease experts are monitoring Iowa’s COVID status and may make adjustments to the program, as needed. To learn more about Bridgette, visit uichildrens.org/2021-Bridgette.