(posted on behalf of, and with permission from the family of Mighty Madeline Monroe)
The Worst Friday Ever
As a teacher, there are many scary moments we feel for our students. We feel afraid when our anxious babies take a test, when we see them have an awkward fall on the playground, when they have an asthma attack or get the flu or some other type of virus, for an extended period of time. We hate those moments when we know they're in pain or not at their best, but we're "equipped" to manage it and take heart in the fact they will soon be back to normal.
On January 24, 2020 at 4:04 p.m., I started living every teachers' and parents' nightmare. I was sitting at my desk trying to finish up lesson plans and get to a stopping point. It was a Friday and I had officially been off the clock for the last 9 minutes, even though I had been promising myself to at least leave work on time on Fridays. My phone rang, jolting me out of my thoughts and I picked up noticing that it was one of my coworkers calling.
"What's going on? Have you heard anything about Madeline?"
"Madeline? No, why?"
Her voice sounded like pure fear and my heart started to beat in overtime. I envisioned a bad fall on the playground, virus ...
My wanderings trailed off as she mentioned the words disoriented, ER, serious. As my brain finally computed what she was saying, I started moving out of my room to find someone, anyone who might have more information. That was exactly 9 days, 4 hours and 37 minutes ago. I now know much more and I have been fervently praying ever since.
From all the reports I was able to collect, Madeline started feeling unwell at our school and her mother was called. From there, due to the rapid progression of some concerning symptoms (disorientation and lapses in consciousness), she was taken to the ER.
By this time, I had made my way home and was in contact communication with coworkers who are very close with the family to try to gather any information I could. At around 7 or 8, I got a text and a phone call to let me know that Madeline had regained consciousness and was acting like herself. She was asking the nurses to put the tv on Peppa Pig and complementing the color of their scrubs. My Madeline is a fashionista, who knows exactly what she wants and isn't afraid to ask for it. That news helped me to rest Friday night. I was told that more would be known on Saturday about what had transpired and what had caused it.
I was scheduled to attend a function with one of my best friends, so even though my heart was heavy, I kept to the plan. Once I made it to the hotel, I noticed that an update had been given and unfortunately, it was not what any of us wanted to hear.
Masses on the Brain
At the ER, on Friday, two masses were found on Madeline's brain and the decision was made to send her to a medical facility that was better equipped to help her. They wanted to transport her via air lift, but could not do so due to reduced visibility from the heavy fog we had experienced that day. Instead, she was transported via ambulance. This post from Madeline's mom, Joy, posted on Facebook, summarizes the situation as it unfolded on Friday, the 24th.
I can tell you if I had been frantic before, my panic escalated at the mention of the words masses and brain. I remember reading and rereading the post in the hotel hoping I had misread, hoping there was more in between the lines and praying that those "masses" were not ... I can't even bring myself to mention the words.
I wanted to just curl up and stay there, but then I reread the last sentence from Joy's post.
"Our God is good, strong and mighty, and in control...We WILL praise him in the storm!" If her mother, who was facing this battle could be of courage, then I would be too. I would not allow those words to terrify me, but I would have faith, pray and make my requests known to God.
After that the waiting began. On Saturday the 25th, Madeline had an MRI and not much else was known. On Sunday, I headed back home and continued to pray and wait for news of my sweet student. I remembered that on Thursday, the day before she fell ill, I had passed my Madeline and her mother, Joy, on my way out of the building. They were headed to pick up her big sister from play practice and my spunky girl had yelled clear across the parking lot, "Bye Mrs...Dr. Harris."
That's what my Madeline calls me... Mrs. Dr. Harris. I had not quite heard her the first time, so she yelled it again. This time I heard her loud and clear and responded by waving my hands (filled with my lunch box and halfway empty gallon jug of water), "Have a good evening, Madeline." Now, on Sunday that girl seemed eons away.
Making a Gift for Madeline
On Monday, at school, there was a somber air. It was the day I saw her grade level and they were all aflutter with questions and comments,
"Me and my family prayed for Madeline."
"Dr. Harris, did you know that Madeline is sick?"
"She has a tumor."
To help calm their anxiety, we decided to empower them. We decided to make a card for Madeline of her favorite things. We took to the board and recorded all the things they had observed about their classmate over the past several months in first grade and for many of them during their time with her in kindergarten too.
"She likes unicorns."
She likes the colors teal and pink."
"Madeline likes the evil ice queen."
"She likes cupcakes and rainbows."
When the comments slowed, we then gave out supplies and invited them to make pictures and add messages that we'd place on our card and deliver to the hospital, so Madeline would know we were thinking about her and feel better.
In no time, they had constructed two life sized cards filled with Madeline's favorite things. We decided to print out two pictures from our recent field trip and add them to the front of the cards.
More Updates on Mighty Madeline Monroe
We soldiered on through the rest of our day and made it through Tuesday as well, with no new information. On Wednesday, we finally received some news. Again, it was not what we wanted to hear. Madeline's mom, Joy, gave us a detailed update, so that all the people who love Miss Madeline Monroe could stay up to date on her status.
More words I didn't want to process echoed through her update: tumor, inoperable, massive. I kept envisioning the little girl who had so eloquently presented her report on bandicoots a few weeks ago and I felt truly overwhelmed.
My team and I had planned to visit, but now we worried that with the new news (which appears below), it was bad timing. Luckily, Madeline's parents Vern, her father, and Joy told us we were still welcome to visit.
Visit with Mighty Madeline Monroe
Driving to the hospital felt like it took an eternity. I was thankful not to be the driver because my stomach was in knots and I'm not sure how efficient I would have been. When we got there, we signed in, got our badges and started the trek to find our girl. She was in the process of transitioning rooms, so our reunion was a tad bit delayed. As they wheeled in her huge unicorns and balloons, I felt happy that our community had been showing her how much she was loved and that she wasn't fighting alone.
When she finally appeared being pushed in bed, I felt a huge wave of relief. She looked like my Madeline, with several additional tubes and almost swallowed in that hospital bed, but she still looked like my Madeline. Her eyes were closed as they pushed her by, so she didn't immediately notice us at first.
We allowed the nurses and her family some time to get situated and then finally we were able to see our girl. As I walked in, she looked up and said, "Hey Mrs..Dr...Harris." I had to choke back tears because she still sounded like my Madeline too.
True to fashionista ways, when my coworker walked in behind me, having recently ran her hands through her hair Madeline exclaimed, "Your hair is a hot mess."
The entire room dissolved into laughter. All except her mom, Joy, who has turned several shades of red. We were quick to remind her that we all knew and loved who Madeline was and hearing her say that did our heart so much good.
More Madeline Monroe Updates
Our visit seemed to fly by and before we knew it, it was time to get back on the road. Thursday came with more troubling updates.
Madeline Monroe and Her Family Need Your Help
At this point our community flew into high gear trying to help this family in their time of desperate need. A GoFundMe was started on behalf of the family and you may visit and donate here if you are able to do so.
On Friday, the 31st, we hosted a Madeline Monroe day and wore shirts and visited local businesses to make donations to support the family and the expenses that have been steadily accruing in the longest, short week of their lives. We finally received some good news that day that Madeline was being moved to rehab later that night.
Most Recent Updates on Mighty Madeline Monroe
On Saturday, Madeline was able to start receiving several therapies. Yesterday, Sunday the 2nd of February, we received another thorough update on Madeline's progress.
Today is February 3rd, it is 9:35. We have planned a purple out tomorrow, February 4th, on behalf of Madeline because tomorrow we should be receiving news that will give us a better idea of exactly what she is facing and how things from this point will proceed.
On February 5th, Madeline's mother, Joy, posted another update letting us know that the oncology team had met and determined the tumor was not the aggressive form. We still do not know if the tumor is cancerous or not. The team decided, since they only had a small sample of the tumor, to send it to Emory in Atlanta for more review and testing. They also decided to send Madeline home on 2/12 for outpatient therapies while they await answers and a plan from the oncology team.
February 8th brought more updates and thankfully some more positives.