(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.