Honored Hero

Honored Hero

Maddie was just 6 when she began having bouts of severe back pain that led to doctor’s office appointments, emergency room visits, and hospital stays.  At first, doctors thought Maddie had muscle strain from gymnastics classes.  Later, they changed the diagnosis to constipation.  But the pain didn’t go away or get any better, and Maddie also developed a low - grade fever. 

In July 2014, Maddie underwent an MRI of her spine and biopsy of a suspicious spot.  Doctors told Maddie’s parents she had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and her treatment would likely involve several years of chemotherapy.  And she would need to begin treatment the very next day.

Maddie was stoic through her first chemo induction and was discharged from the hospital shortly afterward.  A few weeks later, the family showed Maddie’s medical records to a friend of theirs – an oncologist and hematologist – to get a second opinion.  He found that Maddie actually had hypodiploid ALL, a rare, high-risk type of leukemia that does not have a high long-term survival rate when treated with chemotherapy alone.

He referred Maddie to an oncologist at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.  Maddie’s new medical team said she’d need a bone marrow transplant as soon as possible to have her best chance at long-term survival.  The Stanton family, who lived more than 200 miles away in Boerne, Texas, began preparing to move to Houston.

Maddie’s medical team turned to Be the Match, a marrow registry operated by the National Marrow Donor Program for a donor.  Within a short time, a perfect match for Maddie was found through the registry.  In November 2014, Maddie received her transplant, getting an infusion of new bone marrow cells prepared from her donor’s cells.  After about 4 weeks into her recovery, the Stanton’s learned that Maddie’s donor bone marrow had fully engrafted.  The transplant had been successful. But it would still be many months before they could return home to Boerne because she had to be closely monitored for problems.

At first, Maddie visited the bone marrow transplant clinic 3 times a week and over the course of 5 months, reduced those to once a week.  She finished 1st grade through a homebound education program.  But Maddie developed complications from the transplant including life-threatening kidney problems.  By December 2015, the medical team got her complications under control and the family was finally able to return home.

Today, Maddie is a bright, happy and beautiful 10-year-old in fifth grade.  She loves school, and excels in all of her subjects. Her favorite activities are twice-weekly dance lessons, arts and crafts, and spending time with family and friends.