August 2, 2008
Road to recovery
With a stranger's blood now pumping through her body, Maddie Landwehr of Altoona - who had been living a nightmare every day - is now making strides toward returning to the vibrant, spunky Maddie that people know and love.
"Words cannot describe how wonderful that trip was for Maddie," said Ernie Landwehr, Maddie's dad. "She got to wear a special badge and when her group walked up to a ride, they put her right on it. But she ran out of gas about five hours into it and had to quit and go home. The place where we stayed, you can't even imagine it. It's a 70-acre complex with over 100 villas, merry-go-rounds, clowns; it's a whole park. Maddie said she just wanted to stay there."
Her medical treatments began May 28 at the Fairview Children's Hospital in Minnesota. The chemotherapy took a toll on her small body, but when she received her new blood through an IV drip bag, the transplant only took one hour and five minutes. Maddie's mom, Nancy, has spent more than three months at Maddie's side.
In fact, Maddie became so unlike herself that her doctors worried she had lapsed into depression and were going to call in a psychiatrist. Maddie also contracted graft versus host disease, which is when her body didn't accept all of the blood at first, but now she's 100 percent grafted, Ernie said, meaning her body is full of donor blood and now RH+.
"The downside to the steroids is what they do to her stomach and face - she doesn't look the same," Ernie said.
Even when Maddie leaves her germ-free apartment at the Ronald McDonald House where only her parents are allowed to be, she must wear a surgical mask to keep germs at bay. Due to the high risk of infection Maddie faces, her physicians do not believe she will be able to return to school until late January or early February, even if everything proceeds as planned.
"Even the mayor of Altoona and his wife sent Maddie a care package," Ernie said. "She's very appreciative of what everyone's done for her."