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Teen's determination to walk takes her 120 miles from home

Teen gives thanks for home away from home during recovery
Published: Nov. 26, 2014 at 2:55 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2015 at 4:37 AM EST
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Maddy says she is determined to regain the use of her legs. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Maddy says she is determined to regain the use of her legs. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Cyndi Duncan (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Cyndi Duncan (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Many of us are getting ready to give thanks for being home this Thanksgiving holiday, but a young teenager from Bowling Green is giving thanks for a place that made it possible for her to leave home and get the medical treatment she needed.

When she was 14 years old Madison Duncan played volleyball, softball and shot put. But in April of 2013, she began facing a different kind of challenge.

"We went to get her dressed and she couldn't move from the waist down," Madison's mother, Cyndi Duncan, recalled.

Doctors would later diagnose her with Transverse myelitis, a rare disease that attacks the spinal cord.

"You know we didn't know what to expect," Cyndi Duncan said.

Maddy remembers the toughest part of getting the news.

"Probably just the realization that it's not going to go away in a day," she said.

Her determination to walk again would take her 120 miles from home to the Ronald McDonald House in Louisville.

"It's been a God send," Cyndi Duncan said. "It's been a home away from home."

The Duncans stayed at the Ronald McDonald House for seven months while Maddy received therapy at Frazier Rehab. This year, they called the McDonald House home for another three.

Their room was big enough for their family to stay and included two double beds. At 6 p.m., dinner is served at the home. Resident families and charitable groups do the cooking.

Maddy would leave the home for the Frazier Rehab center several times a week. We went along with Maddy to an aqua therapy session. During her session she was wheeled onto a platform which lowered as water filtered in. The floor, much like a treadmill, also moved.

She would go through a series of exercises to strengthen her core and remind her muscles of the movements needed to walk. Underwater, Maddy regained freedom. "We've seen a lot of new movement and a lot of progress," Cyndi Duncan said while at the session.

Although Maddy is usually quiet, her therapist Krista Marcumm said her smile spoke volumes.

"When she lets her smile out it's absolutely amazing," Marcumm said.

The next time we caught up with Maddy, she was getting hooked up to electrodes for a Locomotor session.

For the session Maddy was hoisted up in a standing position. First, she performed a series of exercises with dumbbells. Then she did several sets of squats. After the workout, she began to walk as a team of therapists moved her legs.

"It's not just moving the leg," physical therapist Miranda Garvin explained. "We're making sure we're giving the right cues on the right muscles."

Maddy said instead of focusing on the difficulty of the routine, she often focuses on how others have helped her.

"Some days they would believe in me more than I would believe in myself," Maddy said fighting back tears.

"I've never heard her say, 'Why me?' or 'Woe is me.' Not one time," Cyndi Duncan said.

True to form, when Maddy visited the "Before I die" wall in NuLu, she wrote down that she'd like to own a tea shop.

"Just, take the good things," she said.

She and her family are optimistic about her future and are thankful for the Ronald McDonald House and the people who helped along the way.

"I always thought of it that if this didn't happen to me, I wouldn't have met the people I've met," Maddy said.

Maddy and her family are back at home in Bowling Green where she receives therapy twice a week. She is now able to take some steps with assistance.

Maddy has a 30 percent chance of making a full recovery. She recently earned straight A's and is an honor roll student. Her and her family still keep in touch with the many friends they made at the Ronald McDonald House and plan to return next summer.

If you would like to learn more about the Ronald McDonald House, or if you would like to support their cause, you can learn more by clicking here or by calling (502) 581-1416.

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