The Heart Of A True Champion

Chris Fleck
Wednesday - December 14, 2011
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Maddy Wisser. Photo courtesy Wisser family

Each morning when the alarm goes off most of us slink out of bed, some hesitating to begin the day as we shower, brush our teeth and dress for work or school. We go through the motions without ever taking a second’s thought to be grateful for how easy we have it compared to some.

And then there is 15-year-old Maddy Wisser, with her radiating smile that could literally brighten any bad day. Maddy is a young woman, who more than any of us has reason to complain or pout about her daily challenges, but does she? Not in the least. In fact, with her genuine positivity and illuminating personality, she sets an example for us to never take each morning we have for granted.

On the day she was born, Maddy’s mother Marita was informed that her daughter had been diagnosed with spina bifida, a congenital birth defect which in layman terms means split spine. “There are good days and there are bad days, but you have to take it one day at a time and not let it overwhelm you, you keep pushing through it one day at a time,” says Maddy, who this year was nominated by Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children to represent Hawaii as the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion.

Spina bifida’s symptoms are unique to each person diagnosed and are categorized in three levels: occulta, meningocele, and the most severe, myelomeningocele which Maddy lives with each day. Myelomeningocele is an incurable, painful and discomforting neurological condition that ultimately leads to muscle weakness, bladder and bowel complications, seizures, clubbed feet, uneven hips, hydrocephalus (which cause swelling of the brain) and possible paralysis.

Maddy Wisser with her mom Marita and sisters Kieran (18) and Nalani (5). Photo courtesy Wisser family

Throughout her life, Maddy has undergone 28 surgeries and can expect more. For most of the public, even minor surgery is a nerve-wracking ordeal, but Maddy has learned to be confident in the surgeries knowing they are all to help allow her more mobility and better health.

“I think, in a way, after the past couple surgeries, I’ve gotten more used to them and haven’t been as nervous. It is still scary, but you try not to think about it or psyche yourself out,” says Maddy, who throughout the course of her surgery career could create a recipe book of her favorite flavors of anesthesias and medications.

For a girl whose doctors initially said she may never be able to walk or sit up on her own and may suffer from mental impairments, they couldn’t have been more wrong. She articulates jokes like a seasoned comedian with staff at Kapiolani Medical Center, whisking quickly through the hallways with the assistance of braces through the hallways to go talk and laugh with friends.

A handful of adjectives could be used to describe Maddy’s presence at Kapiolani Medical Center: Inspirational, courageous, influential, all jump to mind, but the one word that fits most appropriately was described by her mother.

Maddy at the Medal ceremony.

“I’ve seen how Maddy has affected other kids and how encouraging of a person she really is. I am so impressed by my child. I think most people would be in a horrible mood, she is in pain all the time and you would never know it,” says Marita.

Maddy began to leave her mark at Kapiolani Medical Center at a very early age. By age 4, Maddy was comforting younger patients who were preparing for their own surgeries. She helps make them laugh and shows them the ropes about how to get candy after their operation. Recently declared “mayor” of her hospital unit, Maddy tells nervous patients, “Just hang in there no matter what you are going through, because the nurses and doctors aren’t trying to hurt you, they are just trying to help you and make you feel better.”

As one of 170 Miracle Network Hospitals in North America and the only one in Hawaii, Kapiolani Medical Center, as a nonprofit organization, uses 100 percent of the community’s donations to benefit the thousands of patients it serves each year. These valuable donations help subsidize the pediatric specialty care that is found solely at Kapiolani.

With the health and lives of thousands of children depending on the hospital’s innovative and specialized care, they needed a face or in Maddy’s case, a champion to represent each sick child and the care they receive.

Maddy Wisser with physical therapist Kimberly Hee. Nathalie Walker photo. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

“We choose a child to go out into the community, who can be an advocate. The CMNH Champion helps us raise funds, but also talks from firsthand experience about what the hospital does. The great thing about Maddy is she has, as a patient, visited almost every unit we have here,” says Kapiolani Children’s Miracle Network director Stacey Acma.

As the 2011 CMNH Champion, Maddy and her family were given a trip this past October to meet the other 50 champions and their families on a spectacular vacation in Washington, D.C., to visit the White House and Capitol Hill, and then to Walt Disney World for the Champions Celebration, giving each champion and family a chance to share and unite around their experience and achievements.

“The trip was an honor, and it was a lot of fun to hear all the different stories and what others have been through. I got to meet so many great kids who have to go through such hard times but keep an amazing positive attitude,” says Maddy, who aspires to be a nurse specializing in oncology and pediatrics.

As CMNH Champion, Maddy never looks for personal recognition. She goes out of her way for others and to represent Kapiolani Medical Center because it comes naturally to her, and regardless of how scary living in and out of a hospital can seem, she exudes optimism through her signature smile.

For more information on Kapiolani’s Children’s Miracle Network or how to donate visit or call (808) 535-7100.


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