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At 4 pounds, 4 ounces, Bree Holt, a preemie, entered the world a fighter.
At 14 years old, just 36 days shy of her 15th birthday, she left this world still a fighter, according to her grandmother, Tammy Earls of Williamstown.
Holt, an eighth grade student at Grant County Middle School, died in her sleep on April 14 at the Williamstown home she shared with her grandparents.
“She was special,” said Earls.
In Bree’s short life, she had faced tragedy and adversity.
Her mother died when she was just 3 years old.
In 2012, Bree became sick and her grandmother thought it was an intestinal problem. She took her to the hospital and was given some medication, but a week later Bree was in pain, so her grandmother took her back to the doctor.
“Her foot had begun to drag,” said Earls. “The doctor asked her to take three steps. She did and he told me she needed to go to Children’s Hospital right now.”
At Children’s, following a four-hour MRI, her family was told that she had a tumor on her spine and she needed surgery.
That following day in July 2012, Bree underwent an 11-hour surgery where doctors found the tumor had become intertwined with the teen’s spinal cord.
Test results, later, showed the tumor was cancerous.
The result was she was partially paralyzed on her left side and forced to use a wheelchair.
“She never gave up. She fought and even when they told her she didn’t have to go back to school, she went anyway,” Earls said. “She wasn’t going to let that stop her. She didn’t miss a ballgame or a dance, just because she was in a wheelchair.”
Her goal was to be able to walk down the aisle at her uncle’s wedding this summer.
Her strong will propeled her to work to regain use of her left side and she could walk short distances with a cane.
Before the family moved to Grant County in 2008, Bree was involved in cheerleading.
“She was a good student and made decent grades. She was a good kid,” Earls said.
Bree was also feisty, at least when she wanted her own way, said her grandmother.
“I was always prepared to argue about her taking her medication or wearing her back brace like she was supposed to,” Earls said. “She was like that. She’d pick on certain family members pretty hard just because she knew she could.”
Earls said Bree was close to her family, including a sister, half-sister and two half-brothers.
“They were really close. We have tried to teach all of our children and grandchildren that family is family and you never forget that,” Earls said.
The Earls have seven children and 23 grandchildren.
“We knew she was special, but we didn’t know how popular she was until we heard from so many of the kids she went to school with. I think she impacted a lot of people and her friends and teachers had a big impact on her,” Earls said.
Bree complained to her grandmother that she had a headache a couple of days before her death.
“She went to sleep and woke up again saying her head hurt so I gave her some Tylenol and she went back to bed but woke up again at 1 a.m.,” Earls said. “I wanted to take her to the hospital but she didn’t want to go.”
The family had a trip planned to Red River Gorge for the following day.
“She didn’t want to miss that trip. She argued me about going to the hospital,” Earls said. “But she finally promised me that if she still had a headache in the morning, she’d go.”
When Bree’s aunt went to check on her that morning, she discovered that Bree had died in her sleep.
“They haven’t told me for sure the cause. The coroner did say there was swelling on the brain, but we don’t have the autopsy results yet,” Earls said.
Bree’s friends and classmates wore pink T-shirt to school on Friday and also held a balloon launch on April 13 at Grant County Park in her memory. A memorial service was held on April 14 at Latonia Christian Church.
Earls said Bree was cremated and her remains will be placed with her mother’s.
“We’re really sad and there’s nothing you can do for the pain but we have our faith,” Earls said. “We feel like God gave us a few extra months with her and she died at home with her loved ones here with her.”