By Bryant Liberta, Student Intern, Virginia Wesleyan College
When Madison, 10, was born in Laurium, MI, she came home from the hospital with a red dot on her chest over the heart area. At first her parents, Dale and Betsy, thought it was just a birth mark. However, the red dot began to grow day by day. By the time Madison was three, the mark, a large hemangioma, had stopped growing and measured 3’ in diameter and 1’ thick.
Dale describes his daughter’s childhood as a difficult one in which she was affected by this large and often sore area. When she would walk or crawl, if she fell on it, it would open and bleed.
“It’s very tender,” Dale said. “If clothes rub against it or she gets a mosquito bite, it’s painful. And she’s self-conscious about it. The strawberry has to be covered.”
The family was then directed to go to Marshfield, Wisconsin to the “Little Mayo” clinic. There, 24 dermatologists examine Madison, with all concluding that she needed to have the strawberry removed. They gave her shots once a week to try and shrink it, but the treatment, which was very painful, had no effect.
The Marshfield Clinic then directed the family to go to Mayo in Minnesota. The specialist there examined Madison and agreed that the growth should be removed soon—
or it could be left, with the possibility it might shrink over time.
“We made arrangements for her to have surgery.” Dale said, “But I had just lost my insurance.”
Without insurance, the surgery could not happen.
Later, another doctor examined Madison and reiterated that the hemangioma had to be removed. Knowing the family had no insurance; she suggested Shriner’s Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, which treats children regardless of the family’s inability to pay. She submitted Madison’s paperwork and pictures of the strawberry from birth. When they got the call saying Madison had been accepted at Shriners, Dale and Betsy were relieved beyond words.
But a new challenge faced them: how would they get to Cincinnati from their home in Upper Peninsula, Michigan? Betsy went on the Internet and found Mercy Medical Airlift/ With the help of a volunteer pilot in Michigan who flies with an aviation charity and who was referred by Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic, Madison and her father went to Chicago O’Hare and flew from there to Cincinnati, with tickets provided by MMA. Doctors at Shriner’s evaluated Madison and scheduled a procedure to remove some of the loose skin surrounding the strawberry, with plans to safely remove the entire growth when Madison turned 13.
Dale says that these hopeful measures would not have been possible without MMA’s assistance.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I don’t know how they plug everything in to make it all happen.” Added Betsy, “Our family greatly appreciates the help we received from Angel Flight and MMA.”