March 14, 2012 - The face of Madison Chind will be seen by thousands of visitors to McDonald's restaurants in Detroit and surrounding areas this month, including the Ortonville McDonald's.
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The little girl's winning smile, dimpled cheek and bright blue eyes are enough to draw anyone's attention to the paper image that lines McDonald's trays. But what may be startling to some is Madison's bald head and the message that accompanies her picture.
"Hi, my name is Madison," it reads. "When I was 4 years old, my legs started to hurt a lot. My mommy took me to lots of doctors, and they told me I have cancer. I had to be at the hospital for 17 days so the doctors could take care of me. We live far away, and my mommy was able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House while I was in the hospital or had to get chemo. It made me happy to have my mommy there when I was not feeling well. Please vote for Ronald McDonald House and help other kids like me."
Madison, now 5, is the daughter of 1996 Brandon High School graduate Jamie Broecker and granddaughter of Brandon Schools bus driver Debbie Broecker. Madison is also the poster child for the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit and she hopes that people who see her picture will vote to help the non-profit organization win a $250,000 grant from the Home Depot Foundation to support kids.
Jamie and Madison have had multiple stays at the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit, which provides a place to stay for families of seriously ill children. According to rmhc-detroit.org, the 16,000 square foot building has 25 bedrooms and 17 bathrooms and accommodates more than 1,000 families a year. Under the guidance of McDonald's Corporation, it opened in 1979 in the Detroit Medical Center adjacent to Children's Hospital of Michigan.
Jamie first took Madison to Children's Hospital last July, after eight frustrating months of her only child being misdiagnosed with everything from rheumatoid arthritis to lupus.
"Her legs hurt, she didn't want to walk, and she would cry all the time," said Jamie. "It was horrible to not know why she was in so much pain and nobody could give me an answer."
Desperate, the single mother who was attending school for nursing and working part-time at a bank heard a rumor there was arsenic in the area's water and took Madison to a local emergency room for more testing. While they didn't find arsenic poisoning, Madison's white blood cell count was off. Doctors called the toxicology department at Children's Hospital and Jamie took Madison there, where two days later a diagnosis finally came. Madison had neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nerves.
"It was stage four, as bad as it can be," said Jamie. "It was in the bone marrow."
It's been a long road and many more painful days for Madison and her family since. The little girl who loves dolls, hot dogs, Disney princess movies and swimming has endured brain surgery, biopsies, bone scans, CAT scans, MRIs, endless rounds of chemo therapy, and bone marrow aspirations where doctors drill into her hip bone. Less than a month ago, she had a bone marrow transplant and in another week or two, she will have another, technically a stem cell transplant.
Her mother said Madison, who wants to be a firefighter when she grows up, is a tough little girl and is the kind of person who cares more about everyone else.
"People will say, 'We're praying for you,' and she says, 'I'm praying for you, too,'" said Jamie. "She's had to deal with medicine and pokes and throwing up and she's doing the best she can, but she's over it. Two nights ago she told me she wishes she didn't know she was sick so she could go swimming."
Madison can't swim right now, but ironically, she has to shower and change her clothes four times per day, including once in the middle of the night, because one of her chemotherapy drugs seeps through her skin and will burn her if it's not washed off.
Jamie and Madison are grateful for the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit where they have stayed during out-patient visits to Children's Hospital and during chemotherapy treatments. Jamie notes the Ronald McDonald House doesn't charge her to stay, whereas when Madison is admitted to the hospital, Jamie has to eat in the cafeteria, costing about $200 per week.
"The women who work at the Ronald McDonald House are unbelievable, they are amazing," she said. "They really care and they love Madison."
Jamie is thankful to them, as well as to her family and friends who have given her and Madison so much support and raised money at a spaghetti dinner last fall to get her a reliable vehicle to drive down to the hospital in Detroit.
"Not having to worry about gas and things like that makes such a difference, it relieves some of the stress," Jamie said.
Next up is the second bone marrow transplant, and Jamie and Madison are looking forward to a Disney World trip in May, a wish that was granted for Madison by the Rainbow Connection.
A fundraiser to help with Jamie Broecker's expenses is planned for 1-6 p.m., April 1, at Bullfrogs Restaurant, 2225 S. Ortonville Road.
To help Ronald McDonald House of Detroit win $250,000 from the Home Depot Foundation, cast your vote every day in March at RallyForRonald.com/Madison (one vote per person, per 24-hour period).
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville