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Teens hit grand slam with Doernbecher fundraiser

After battling E. Coli, two Bull Mountain girls are raising money for Doernbecher


by: JAIME VALDEZ - Vanessa Brown and Bailey Marshall of Bull Mountain contracted a deadly strain of E. coli in April. Now recovering, they hope to raise money this Saturday for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital to help doctors who saved their lives.

Vanessa Brown and Bailey Marshall this weekend will do what they do best: play softball.

After being admitted to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in April for near-deadly cases of E. coli infection, the two best friends are hoping to give something back to the doctors and nurses who saved their lives.

What: Softball tournament to raise money for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital

When: Saturday, Sept. 15 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Where: Hillsboro Stadium, 4450 N.W. 229th Ave., in Hillsboro

How much: Free, but donations are welcome

How to help: Want to donate? Click here.

On Saturday, the two Bull Mountain teenagers are hosting the inaugural Fast Pitch Cares softball tournament at Hillsboro Stadium.

The event will bring more than 20 amateur softball teams together from across the region for a day of sports, food, live music and a silent auction to raise money for new equipment for the hospital’s nephrology department, where the girls received care.

“We want to raise money for this new machine that can help people in the hospital with what we went through,” said Vanessa, sitting next to Bailey on Monday night at the Cook Park softball field.

“It will benefit kids with the same stuff that we had,” said Bailey.

The 24-hour blood pressure machine costs about $8,000, said Bailey’s mom Karla Friede.

With nearly $20,000 in donations collected so far — and more coming in — from individuals and local companies, the girls have already raised enough money to purchase at least two of the machines, Friede said. The girls set a lofty goal of raising $50,000.

Steve Brown, Vanessa’s father, said any amount they could raise was great for an organization that saved his daughter’s life.

“The care at Doernbecher was incredible, they cared for our kids as if they were their own,” he said.

The event’s website is accepting donations, and Saturday’s tournament will have places to make donations through T-shirt sales, concessions and the silent auction.

“They’re excited about it,” Brown said. “They were like, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Looking back

by: SUBMITTED - Stella Preston, Emma Dozier, Jordan Harden and Rowan Marshall visit Bailey in the hospital. Bailey was at Doernbecher for a month as she was treated for hemolytic-uremic syndrome, brought on by an E. Coli infection.

It was a few days before Easter when Bailey and Vanessa contracted the deadly foodborne pathogen.

Vanessa, who has a preexisting blood condition, had recently been sick at home. Bailey and other teammates from the girls’ softball team stopped in to visit with Vanessa when she started to feel better, Bailey said.

“We came to her house to say, ‘We’re so glad you’re (better),’ and we had some milk,” Bailey recalled.

The unpasteurized milk the Browns purchased at a Wilsonville farm was contaminated with E. Coli strain O157:H7. The girls would later be diagnosed with hemolytic-uremic syndrome, a deadly disease that kills 1 in 10 people.

By Monday night, Bailey was in the emergency room. Vanessa was admitted a few days later and listed in critical condition in the intensive care unit by the end of the week.

The girls’ kidneys shut down. Vanessa suffered from seizures and fell into a coma for a week. About 80 percent of her intestines were destroyed and her brain was affected from an infection related to the E. coli, Brown said.

“It could have been devastating,” Brown said. “The doctors were amazed that she walked out of the hospital at all. One of her nephrologists said that he had seen girls with as severe a condition, but they hadn’t walked out of the hospital. Now she’s totally herself.”

While they were being treated, Vanessa and Bailey said the support from friends and family was overwhelming.

“We got so much support from the community,” Bailey said. “We got posters, cards and flowers from a bunch of different softball teams.”

Teammates wore pink and purple stickers with the girls’ initials on their helmets during games to show their support, Bailey said. “It was great.”

Big moment

by: JAIME VALDEZ - The two Tualatin High School freshmen are getting back into their sport and have played several games, slowly returning to where they were before they got sick.

The two best friends live just blocks from each other and have known each other since fourth grade, Bailey said, but were kept apart for much of their time in the hospital.

After Bailey was well enough, and Vanessa woke from her coma, the two were reunited.

“When she was well enough to be wheeled, and Vanessa was well enough to recognize her, they got to see each other,” Friede said. “That was a big moment for them. It was really cool.”

Brown said support from Bailey and her family is part of what helped his daughter recover.

“It was a great day when Vanessa came out of her coma and she was finally able to have a visitor to really communicate with, and here’s Bailey coming in to visit Vanessa. It just lit up her day.”

Vanessa was hospitalized for about a month longer than Bailey. Once Bailey was released, she returned nearly every day to spend time with her friend.

“That was a huge part of the healing process — to have her friend come in,” Brown said.

Giving back

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Bailey Marshall, foreground, and Vanessa Brown say they want to purchase new blood pressure machines for Doernbecher's Children's Hospital. Saturday's softball tournament will include a silent auction, T-shirts for sale, and concessions, all going to benefit the hospital.

It was Sue Oran, Bailey’s pitching coach, who came up with the idea of the tournament.

The girls hope to make the tournament a yearly event.

“I think it would be so incredible to do an annual thing with the softball community,” Friede said. “Not necessarily make it about Bailey and Vanessa every year, but bringing the softball community together to do a charity event and give back to a kids’ charity every year. I think it would be great if this would become an ongoing thing.”

Today, the two Tualatin High School freshmen are getting back into their sport and have played several games, slowly returning to where they were before they got sick.

“I’ve been playing for most of the summer, but I’m not as fast as I used to be,” Bailey said.

Family friend Rachael Mortensen said during the entire time the girls were in the hospital, they never worried about themselves, but about each other.

“The team is their family,” she said. “It’s very selfless what they’re doing. They want to make sure no one else goes through this.”