Hometown: 
Marshalltown, Iowa

Eight-year-old Drake Fricke loves sports, playing with Legos, and the virtual game “Minecraft.”

Hirschsprung’s disease doesn’t stop him from living life to the fullest.

“He is on the baseball team, wrestling team, and wants to play basketball and maybe soccer, too,” Melinda adds. “Hirschsprung’s has not held Drake back at all.”

It’s a far cry from what Melinda experienced with her newborn son eight years ago.

Drake was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, and when he was just one day old, Melinda discovered he wasn’t eating. Doctors in Marshalltown found a blockage in his colon and sent him to a Des Moines hospital where it was suggested that Drake may have Hirschsprung’s disease, a condition that affects the colon and, with newborns, makes them unable to have a bowel movement.

At a week old, Drake had his first surgery to remove the diseased part of his colon. Things went well for a while, but by the time he was 3, Drake had undergone eight surgeries in Des Moines because his colon wasn’t working properly.

When he started to have problems yet again, Melinda decided to come to University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

“When we transferred to Iowa City, Drake was in a lot of pain and was suffering,” Melinda says.

Pediatric surgeon, Graeme Pitcher, MB, BCH, and his team focused not only on the symptoms of Drake’s disease, but on his quality of life, as well. Drake has had three surgeries at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital and Melinda doesn’t think he’ll need more.

“I love his doctors here,” she says. “They saved my son’s life and I am thankful for that. I can never thank Dr. Pitcher and the staff enough for what they’ve done for Drake and our family. I can tell Drake has come so far and that he’s only going to go farther.”

“Our experience here has been amazing,” Melinda adds. “I started off as a mom, feeling alone and concerned that nobody knew what I was talking about, and had to learn a lot of stuff on my own until we came to the university. His doctors here have taught me a lot about Hirschsprung’s disease and made me feel comfortable. I would never go anywhere else with Drake. This is, in his words, his hospital.”

Drake has big plans for the future. Melinda explains, “Drake's goal is to be on Dr. Pitcher's team.  He wants to help other children that have Hirschsprung's Disease and work with Dr. Pitcher.”

“I don’t believe Hirschsprung’s disease is going to hold Drake back from doing anything that he ever wants to do,” Melinda adds. “He’s the bravest person I think I’ve ever met.”

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