18-year-old Madeline King has grit and determination you might not expect from the “baby” of four children. Those qualities helped the athletic and artistic teen stay strong through a painful medical crisis—an ordeal that made Madeline a Riley kid two times over.
Madeline was born and raised in South Bend, where her parents, Dwight King and Mary Hendriksen, both work for the University of Notre Dame. When Madeline was a baby, Dwight and Mary brought her to Riley for help with a urology problem. Madeline had outpatient surgery to fix a condition called duplex ureters. The operation was only supposed to be a stopgap measure until she was old enough for reconstructive surgery, but Madeline surprised her parents and her doctors by healing so completely, she never needed the second operation.
Madeline was 16 years old when her second Riley encounter began in dramatic fashion. That day, January 11, 2012, was already filled with anxiety for the family: Madeline’s father, Dwight, was having hip replacement surgery. Meanwhile, Madeline was recovering from relatively routine ankle surgery she’d had two weeks earlier. (She had sprained her ankle and damaged ligaments during a travel soccer game.) “During school that day she was in unbearable pain,” recalls Mary, who soon found herself with two family members in the same hospital. “Her dad got out of surgery at 2 p.m., and Madeline got to the emergency room at 2:10.”
In the emergency room, doctors discovered that beneath the cooling compression cuff Madeline was wearing on her healing ankle, her skin was breaking down, creating a large open wound. “The doctor told us, you’re going by car or by helicopter, but you are going to Riley Hospital,” says Mary. “You can imagine as a parent, I feared the worst. I was worried she would lose her foot.”
With Dwight still recovering from his surgery, Mary and Madeline headed downstate to Riley at IU Health North, where Madeline was admitted for eight days. Her rare case of “skin breakdown” (also known as a pressure ulcer) required an army of specialists, including: orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Porter, plastic surgeon Dr. William Sando, infectious disease physicians Dr. Ravi Misra and Dr. H. Reid Mattison, and hematologist Dr. Jennifer Kline Morgan. “I have gratitude down to my toes,” says Mary. “You just can’t match the collection of experts in that place. I felt like we were in a cocoon of safety.”
The family was also blown away by the compassion shown by everyone they encountered, from nutritionists who provided Madeline the perfect caloric intake to help her skin heal, to custodians who prayed for her in the hospital chapel, to a favorite nurse who offered extra TLC by washing her long, wavy hair. “It made me feel like a person, like I wasn’t just a patient,” says Madeline.
After she was released from the hospital, Madeline continued the slow healing process. Three months after her emergency room trip, the wound finally closed completely. Madeline dedicated herself to a grueling physical therapy regimen. Unfortunately, the risk of re-injury to her fragile skin is too high for her to return to soccer, but the unstoppable athlete is channeling her energy into running with her school cross country team. “I miss soccer every day, but it’s good to be running again,” she says.
Madeline has also found herself pulled to give back by volunteering at last year’s IU Dance Marathon for Riley, where her older sister has gotten involved through her employer. It’s Madeline’s way of showing gratitude that feels too big for words. “To those who helped me, I couldn’t thank them enough.”