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Friday, January 30, 2015

Student Athlete Loses Vision, But Not Her Great Attitude

Jobe eighth grader Mady Walker
In the span of nine months, Jobe Middle School student Madelyn Walker went from being a volleyball player and competitive dancer to losing her vision and using a wheelchair for assistance.

“I couldn’t see peripherally in my right eye, and then it just started getting worse,” said the 14-year-old who goes by Mady.

“In August of 2013, she woke up one day and told me, ‘Momma, I can’t see,’” said Mady’s mother Kati Walker, the principal’s secretary at Jobe. “I said, ‘What do you mean you can’t see?’ and she said, ‘My vision’s really blurry.’”

After an MRI, doctors discovered that Mady had optic neuritis, an inflammation of the optic nerve that causes blurred or dimmed vision.

Later that month, Mady started losing feeling in her right leg. She now uses a brace to help her walk and utilizes a wheelchair for longer distances because she gets easily fatigued.

Doctors think she suffers from mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like episodes—better known as MELAS syndrome. The disease affects many of the body’s systems, particularly the brain and nervous system.

The eighth grader has been given a life expectancy of mid-30s. Although the news shocked the Walker family, they said they try to always keep a positive outlook about it.
(L-R) Jobe girl's athletic coordinator Stephanie Upshaw,
Mady Walker, and mother Kati Walker
“I’m still in denial about the whole thing,” said Kati Walker. “Sometimes, I wake up and think she’ll be all better. But you just have to do what you have to do and take life one day at a time.”

Mady’s diagnosis hasn’t stopped her from staying active in school. She is student council president, bassoon player in the Honors Band, and member of the National Junior Honor Society.

Even with all of her activities, Mady said she misses being in sports.

“I was only able to play in one volleyball game last school year before my vision started getting worse, and I couldn’t even try out for basketball,” said Mady. “I never really got a chance to say goodbye to sports.”

That is, until Thursday night.

Jobe girl’s athletics coordinator Stephanie Upshaw wanted to give Mady one last chance to play on the court again. She coordinated with the coach at T.A. Howard Middle School to allow Mady to shoot the basketball one more time in a competitive game.

“Mady is an outstanding student and person with an outstanding attitude,” said Upshaw. “She might not have this opportunity again, so we wanted to make it happen for her.”

Mady Walker scoring two points for her team.
The play went as planned, and Mady made the shot—a move that finally brought her closure.

Mady still has big plans for the future. She wants to be a neonatal nurse and continue living life as usual. She hopes that her story can help people learn to always be grateful.

“Never take anything in life for granted because you could wake up one day, and it could be taken away from you.”