Taking a Leap of Faith Turns Injured Teen’s Life Around

Madison Maddox & Family

While visiting her grandparents in Horatio, Arkansas, to celebrate Thanksgiving, Madison, then 13, was driving her 3-year-old cousin around a pasture on the family’s ATV while her mom Mandy was inside preparing dishes for the upcoming holiday dinner when the unexpected happened.

“For some reason Madison decided to cross the road and they were hit by a car about 100 yards from the house,” says Mandy Maddox. “My little niece was thrown from the ATV and into a ditch. She had some minor injuries that required some stitches. Madison landed on the road and when I arrived on the scene, I thought she was dead.”

Madison was taken by air ambulance to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, about a two-and-a-half-hour drive away from Horatio.

When Madison’s parents arrived at the hospital, their daughter was in the pediatric intensive care unit where she had been diagnosed 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. “I’ll always be grateful to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, they saved my daughter’s life,” says John Maddox. “But her prognosis wasn’t good. We were told to consider nursing home facilities or at the very least, moving our family into a one-story home.”

Fearing that Madison may never walk again, some of John’s family members told him about TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston.“I’d never heard of TIRR Memorial Hermann until our family in Houston mentioned it to us,” says John. “We had very little hope at that point and were very discouraged.  Hearing about TIRR Memorial Hermann and the success they had, we knew we had to get Madison there. It was our goal.”

The family took a leap of faith and began preparing for the trip to one of the top rehabilitation hospitals in the country. Twenty days after the ATV accident, Madison was stable enough to be flown to Houston. She was still heavily medicated, had spoken only a couple of words and was unable to even give her parents a thumbs-up when she arrived at TIRR Memorial Hermann on December 11, 2012.

Madison spent five weeks at TIRR Memorial Hermann under the medical direction of Dr. Cindy B. Ivanhoe, attending physician, Brain Injury and Stroke Program, TIRR Memorial Hermann, professor, department of physical medicine and rehabilitation, Baylor College of Medicine and adjunct associate professor at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

John Maddox still gets choked up to this day when he thinks about the first time Dr. Ivanhoe met with Madison and his family. “She finished examining Madison and turned to me and my wife and said, ‘I expect a really good outcome here.’ It was the first time since Madison’s accident that we had been given any hope. We placed all of our hope in TIRR Memorial Hermann to give us our daughter back.”

Madison had to relearn just about everything –writing, walking, dressing herself and even tying her shoes. The biggest goal Madison set for her recovery was to return to school before Spring Break.

“I remember being in the halls of TIRR Memorial Hermann and reading all the stories they have on the wall,” says Madison. “Those stories were very encouraging and inspirational to me and my family and helped me to keep pushing to get better.”

At the end of five weeks at TIRR Memorial Hermann, Madison was ready to go home to Arkansas.  She was enrolled in an outpatient rehabilitation program at a facility in Benton, Arkansas, still determined to return to school by Spring Break.

The days were going by quickly. “I wanted to get better but right after the accident I really wasn’t sure if I would be able to,” says Madison. Her hard work and determination paid off and the day before Spring Break was set to begin, Madison walked back into Mena Middle School as a student. “It was an incredible day, not much got done at school the day Madison returned, it was a more of a celebration than a school day,” says Mandy Maddox.

Madison’s hometown of Mena, Arkansas, had rallied around the Maddox family since the day of the accident and held several fundraisers to help cover the family’s growing expenses. “They made up t-shirts with Madison’s name on them and a collage of words friends used to describe Madison,” says John Maddox. “Every now and then I’ll still see one of those t-shirts being worn around town, more than three years after the accident. The love and support from our community was just amazing.”

Madison Maddox Homecoming

Today, Madison is your typical high school sophomore. She was elected to the homecoming court her freshman and sophomore year and she plays volleyball. She has no physical or cognitive issues as a result of the accident.  The experience and treatment she received at TIRR Memorial Hermann has convinced Madison to attend college to become an occupational therapist. “I want to be able to give back, I want to help others like I was helped,” says Madison.

“She’s awesome, she couldn’t be better. She gets good grades, she works hard, she’s a very kind and generous person,” says John Maddox.

“She’s very spiritual, she knows God has given her this gift,” says Mandy Maddox. “I can’t even begin to imagine where Madison would be today if we had not made that trip to TIRR Memorial Hermann.”

Madison Maddox Volleyball2 crop

This Spring Break, Madison and her family are planning to return to Houston to visit Dr. Ivanhoe and staff members at TIRR Memorial Hermann who played such a big part in her recovery.

To learn more about rehabilitation programs, visit  www.tirr.memorialhermann.org

TIRR is a registered trademark of TIRR Foundation.


Tashika Varma