FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A 9-year-old Fort Wayne girl with juvenile arthritis just won a free trip to Disney World and she’s on cloud nine.
Courtney Brower has been in and out of hospitals non-stop for the last 4 years. What this Disney World trip means to her is her first vacation that doesn’t involve a doctor’s visit or medical conference.
She is one of 13 kids to win a magical, all-expenses-paid, five-day journey to Disney World through non-profit “Bert’s Big Adventure.” The trip for kids with chronic and terminal illnesses is paid for by the host of the Bert Show, an Atlanta-based radio talk show that airs on Fort Wayne’s Hot 107.9.
Courtney was diagnosed with arthritis when she was 5. A year later, she was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a tissue disorder that causes joints and skin to stretch. Because of it, she hurts and bruises easily and takes longer to heal. Last year, she underwent heart surgery when doctors found she had a heart defect.
She says some days are worse than others, but she’s lived with pain for a long time.
“When I lay down my head, it will start hurting and when I walk my legs will start hurting,” she explained. “My joints are hurting and my head is hurting and I get a lot of headaches and stuff.”
Her mom, Renda Brower, will go on the Disney World Trip with Courtney. She and the family have been by Courtney’s side for the entire journey, including advocacy events and senate hearings on hospital medication procedures. Most recently, Courtney was put on a research drug at Cincinnati Children’s hospital.
“She actually at the age of five learned to give herself her own chemo shots and those are things children shouldn’t have to learn to do,” the mother said. “Children shouldn’t have to grow up thinking my life is ‘let’s go get an injection. Let’s go get an infusion.'”
Courtney stays above her diseases by spreading awareness, living actively, and staying positive.
“I’m like any other kid,” she said. “I treat myself like I don’t have arthritis.”
Brower is pumped for the vacation.
“I’m excited for the rides and getting to meet Disney characters because I watch Disney Channel a lot and going to the Magic Kingdom is going to be so fun,” she said.
Brower joins the 12 other kids on “Bert’s Big Adventure” on February 22.