Wirthlin shows determination and care inside and outside of OHS


tiger paw

Co-student body presidents Isabella Wirthlin (12) and TJ Meinershagen (12) work on a story for the first school broadcast this year.

“She is one of the most determined, diligent, and gritty workers of all time,” said history teacher Mr. Dan Richter.

“She’s always there for anyone who needs her,” said her friend, Alex Boehlje (12).

“She’s funny, kind, and does it all,” said another close friend, Ethan Kauffman (12).

All of these statements pertain to Isabella Wirthlin, one of the most involved and dedicated students at OHS.

Wirthlin holds many titles at OHS, including the co-student-body-president alongside TJ Meinershagen, the Vice President of National Honor Society, the TREND president, the president and student director for Drama Club, the Tri-M president, and the OHS Band drum major. Along with these titles, she is a member of the Quill and Scroll Journalism Honor Society and Wind Symphony. She also recently completed her term as the OHS student representative on the Mehlville School District Board of Education.

When asked how she keeps up with all of these responsibilities, Wirthlin said, “I can’t explain why or how I do it. I just can’t stand the idea of letting a team down.”

This attitude of never letting anyone down is also evident in Wirthlin’s personal life.

Although 2020 has been difficult for everyone, Isabella faced a tragedy that changed her life: Her mother passed away after a long battle with cancer on May 5, 2020. Brenda Wirthlin was diagnosed with Stage 3 endocervical cancer in October of 2019. After starting chemotherapy and radiation treatment in November, then having abdominal surgery a few months later, many complications arose. 

“My mom couldn’t sit up without help,” Wirthlin recalled. “I bathed her, cooked for her, dressed her, cleaned her wounds, and spent as much time as I could with her.” 

As the complications with Mrs. Wirthlin’s surgery and cancer treatment worsened, she had to go back to the hospital. Then, after one week of their mother being in the hospital alone due to COVID-19, Isabella and her siblings were allowed to visit.

I’ve learned that life is full of obstacles and misfortune. It’s the way you deal with it that builds your character.”

— Isabella Wirthlin

During the visit, they were told that their mother’s chemotherapy had caused her to go into heart failure, which only happened to 0.1% of chemotherapy patients. They also learned that her cancer had spread to her lymphatic system. Unfortunately, due to her heart failure, Mrs. Wirthlin could not receive chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation treatment for her cancer, so she was sent home in an ambulance on hospice and was told she had about three months to live. 

While her mother was on hospice, more complications arose. She was on a morphine pump for her pain, and as her body began to noticeably shut down, Isabella and her siblings tried their very hardest to keep their mother comfortable and happy. They each took shifts of staying awake every night to make sure she was okay.

“When I did sleep, I slept with a baby monitor so I could make sure she was still breathing,” Isabella described.

Although the doctors gave her three months, Isabella’s mother passed away on May 5 after only one week in hospice.

Isabella helped organize her mother’s funeral, and she and her siblings selected her urn and prayer cards. Isabella wrote her obituary and delivered her eulogy. Only 30 guests could be invited to the funeral due to the pandemic. 

“I feel so cheated. So lost. I haven’t graduated high school yet,” Isabella said in early November. “My 18th birthday is a week away (Nov. 19) and my mom won’t be there. How can that be?”

Although Wirthlin says that she has not yet overcome the challenges she has faced this year, she has demonstrated great strength and kindheartedness. She gave her mother as much care as she possibly could throughout her battle with cancer, and even after the battle ended, she continued to show how much she cared by contributing so much to the funeral.

Even outside of her mother’s battle with cancer, Wirthlin shows her kindheartedness each and every day at school. She works hard to keep things in place for everyone else and never lets anyone down. Even after this heartbreaking experience, she is determined to make a difference and continue to lead OHS, showing so much strength and compassion.

“I’ve learned that life is full of obstacles and misfortune,” Wirthlin said. “It’s the way you deal with it that builds your character.”