Thriving teen, mom organize golf tournament for children's hospital


'I credit Doernbecher with saving my son's life,' said Tigard resident Ellen Mitchell of her 16-year-old son Dru.

Dru's life almost ended before it began. He was born with a rare birth defect called Omphalocele, in which his intestines, liver and spleen remained in a large sac outside his abdomen. When Ellen was four months pregnant, doctors also discovered that Dru had an atrioventricular canal defect, or two holes in his heart.

'Everyone had bad news for me - it was all doom and gloom,' Ellen said. 'I was told to terminate my pregnancy. But then I met Dr. Harrison.'

Marvin Harrison told Ellen that he could perform surgery on Dru after he was born and possibly save his life. He was the only doctor that gave Dru a chance at life.

'I'll never forget what Dr. Harrison told me. He said, 'I don't see any reason why Dru won't be out shooting hoops with his buddies one day,'' she said.

Dru had his first surgery when he was just two hours old, and had to spend the first three months of his life at the neonatal intensive care unit at Doernbecher. The holes in his heart miraculously closed and Dru has since had seven more surgeries, the most recent of which was last July, when he had his feeding tube removed.

'Dr. Harrison gave me a small glimmer of hope. If it wasn't for him, Dru wouldn't be here today,' Ellen Mitchell said.

Today Dru Mitchell is a healthy 16-year-old who enjoys riding his bike and playing soccer.

'(He's) just a normal kid,' his mom said.

Dru has also taken a special interest in the police department, a passion that he has cultivated since his childhood. He expressed interest in the Tigard Police Department's police cadet program last spring and recently finished the 14-week program that gave him a taste of what a career in law enforcement is like. He said he plans to participate in police ride-alongs, traffic patrols and community outreach events as a part of the program.

'I pretty much serve as an extra set of eyes and ears,' Dru said of the Tigard Police Department.

The only current complication Dru must deal with on a daily basis is his inability to eat solid food. Because he was hooked up to a respirator during the first three months of his life, he has developed an oral aversion and has never eaten any solid food.

'I've learned to deal with it, and now I just order a lot of chocolate milk when I go out to restaurants with my family,' Dru said with a smile.

Giving back to Doernbecher

Friends of Doernbecher is an outreach organization of more than 200 former patients, family members, friends and volunteers. Dru and his mom started a chapter in his honor more than 10 years ago.

On Sept. 19, Dru's Chapter is holding a golf tournament at Willamette Valley Country Club in Canby to raise money for the children's hospital. The proceeds will go towards the Family Resource Library at Doernbecher, the Friends of Doernbecher grant program and the neonatal intensive care unit.

Ellen said her fundraising efforts are her way of giving back to the community of doctors, nurses and volunteers who helped save her son's life.

'When Dru was in the hospital, an elderly woman came in every day to rock him when I wasn't around,' she said. 'That's when I knew I wanted to do something to give back to Doernbecher.'

The golf tournament is a four-person scramble, and anyone interested can register individually or as a team of four. Registration is $250 per person. It covers the green fees for golf, golf carts, lunch, dinner and the auction. Tickets to the dinner and auction only can be purchased for $50. The deadline to register is Sept. 12. Register online at

The event will also feature a helicopter ball drop, in which Dru will drop a bucket of golf balls onto a green from a hovering helicopter on the driving range at Willamette Valley Country Club. The person whose ball lands in the hole will win $1000. Helicopter balls cost $10 each or $25 for three. Tickets can be purchased at the event or online.

Every year, Doernbecher Children's hospital cares for hundreds of newborns and babies from throughout the Northwest in its 46-bed facility on Oregon Health and Science University's Marquam Hill campus in Portland. The hospital is the place where neonatal intensive care units across the region refer their most seriously ill newborns.