The smells of cooking and baking filled the Young home in Horatio, Arkansas, the day before Thanksgiving 2012. The Young’s daughter, Mandy Maddox, and her two daughters Macy and Madison had driven the 60 miles from their home in Mena to spend the holiday with family. Her husband, John Maddox, had plans to drive down the following morning.
While Maddox was busy with preparations in the kitchen, 13-year-old Madison was driving her three-year-old cousin around the pasture on an ATV. “For some reason Madison decided to cross the road, and they were hit by a car about 100 yards from the house,” Maddox says. “My niece was thrown from the ATV into the ditch. She had very minor injuries – a couple of stitches and some pulled ligaments. Madison landed on the road. When I arrived on the scene, I thought she was dead.”
An air ambulance from Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock landed in the pasture within minutes. When John Maddox got word of the accident, he drove down to Horatio and picked up his wife. The couple made the two-and-a-half-hour drive to Little Rock together.
By the time they arrived, Madison was tucked into the hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, where doctors diagnosed her with a traumatic brain injury, fractures of the first and second cervical vertebrae, and a broken jaw. She underwent surgery to repair her jaw and was fitted with a cervical brace to allow the fractures to heal. “We were told we might want to consider nursing home facilities,” Maddox says. “It was not a good prognosis.”
Family members living in Houston knew about TIRR Memorial Hermann through the experience of a friend’s daughter, a former inpatient at the rehabilitation hospital. Phone calls were made, medical records were transferred, and Madison was airlifted to Houston. This time her parents flew with her.
Heavily medicated, Madison was unable to talk or give her parents the thumbs-up sign they were hoping for when they landed in Houston on Dec. 11, 2012. She was hospitalized at TIRR Memorial Hermann for five weeks under the medical direction of Dr. Cindy B. Ivanhoe, Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Baylor College of Medicine.
“Madison had to relearn every single skill she knew – writing, walking, dressing herself and tying her shoes, which was the hardest for her,” Maddox says. “It’s natural to teach your child those things when they’re little, but at 13 it’s not natural and it’s very difficult to watch your daughter have to relearn everything. We were told that it might be a step forward one day and a step backward the next, but from the moment she arrived in Houston, it was all-out go.”
Occupational therapist Kate Shneyder, OTR, used her patient’s love of basketball to drive her progress. “The two of them had such a great connection – Madison would do anything Kate asked,” Maddox says. “She went from the wheelchair to assisted walking with two helpers. Within five weeks she was sprinting down the hallway.”
Madison and Shneyder still keep in touch. “When she arrived, she was unable to sit up, recognize what a spoon was or hold it in her hand,” Shneyder says. “She worked very hard, and together we decided that by the time she left, she would be able to manage all of her daily activities. When she left, the only thing she couldn’t do was tie her shoes. She texted me the day she did that on her own.”
After her discharge, Madison continued her therapy for eight weeks at an outpatient facility in Benton, Arkansas. Today, she’s an athletic ninth grader who’s busy with team sports.
“Madison has no physical or cognitive deficits. She’s on the basketball and volleyball teams. She makes As and Bs. She swims during the summer,” Maddox says. “She is the most social child you could ever meet. She was selected to represent her class on the Homecoming Court this year, and she’s involved with church. She hopes to become a therapist one day so she can change someone else’s life the way hers was changed.
“Taking Madison to TIRR Memorial Hermann was the best decision we made for our daughter,” she says. “I can’t even begin to imagine where she would be if we hadn’t made that trip.”