CEDARBURG, Wis. — The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s office says a 13-year-old girl died from COVID-19 complications earlier this week at Children’s Hospital. Family has identified her as Bella Pape of Cedarburg.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services data shows she is one of ten people ages 19 and younger who have died from coronavirus complications in the state.
Born with a rare genetic disorder called Kabuki Syndrome, Katie Pape says her daughter Bella was in and out of the hospital her whole life.
"Out of all of her struggles, Sepsis, liver transplant, kidney failure, all of it, pneumonias, I've never seen her suffer or be more scared than she was with these two weeks intubated,” Katie said.
Katie says the virus spread through their family three weeks ago amid the Omicron surge.
"It was excruciating, it was hard to watch,” she said.
Bella was taken to Children’s Hospital where she was placed in intensive care. She took her last breath on Valentine’s Day.
"It was just completely heartbreaking and I just wanted to do anything to take it away, and I wish it was me instead of her,” Katie said.
Ever since the pandemic began, Katie says her family did everything they could to prevent Bella from getting COVID-19, knowing their superhero-loving girl wouldn’t be able to fight it off. But Katie says she didn’t see that same level of caution in her Cedarburg community.
"We have always had such support from our community and this was one of the first times where I truly felt shocked at the lack of compassion,” she said.
As the pandemic enters yet another phase with cases declining, Katie hopes others will think of Bella’s story and others who are most at risk before themselves.
"It's all in the attitude and if you refocus your thought process into thinking about others like Bella does, or did, it just seems so silly not to do that if it means sparing someone's life,” Katie said. “I mean, would you really want to know that you are possibly responsible for taking the life of someone as precious as my daughter?"
Friends have set up a fundraiser to help Bella’s family with medical and funeral expenses. If you would like to contribute, click here.