SPOKANE, Wash. - Maddie is a frequent visitor to Sacred Heart Children's Hospital for appointments and surgeries, and her easy smile and kind heart has made her a number of friends among the staff.
The thing that really makes Maddie so special is that she's brave. Braver than you or I could ever dream to be.
"She was born with some different anomalies that required her to have a tracheotomy, and that's a tube in the neck that required her to be hooked up to a ventilator to support her lungs," Dr. Omar Husein said.
Maddie has had over 20 procedures for these anomalies. The first six months of her life was spent in a hospital, with a tracheotomy to help her breathe, a g-tube to feed her and, at three years old, open heart surgery.
Madeline Clarkston has been through more in six years of life than most people will see in a lifetime and yet, through it all, her smile still lights up a room and she's still very brave. There's only one thing that makes her nervous: "Only when it comes to surgeries," she said.
Getting nervous is something that Maddie's parents, Chastity and Casey Clarkston, have grown accustomed to.
"It's always uneasy. you're placing your child into a persons hand," Chastity said.
"If you look at 20 some procedures and surgeries. Major procedures, and everything came out fine. It's always in the back of your mind that something may go wrong," Casey added.
In late April Maddie went in for one more procedure; her lungs have gained enough strength to remove the tracheotomy and Dr. Husein will close the hole the tracheotomy left in her neck.
"She still has a hole there, air escapes through that hole, water gets in it. We're gonna be able to reconstruct the neck, to close that space, reconstruct the windpipe," Husein said.
Her surgery was a success, the hole in her neck now closed. She lays in her hospital bed, all smiles, her parents happy their daughter can now focus on being a kid now.
"She can go swimming, she can splash in the water, she can just be a kid," Chastity said.
Through all of the surgeries and hospital visits, the Clarkstons have gained more than just her daughter. They've
"Sometimes it's like a family. To me this his home," Casey said.
"What makes the hospital so great is that they do take an interest in her life. She's not just another number. She's not just another patient. That they … she's just Maddie. I love everything about it, I love the people, I love the environment," Chastity said.
A sense of family, friendship and most importantly a healthy daughter ready for her next step on this journey.
"Even though we've turned a page the story doesn't end here," Casey said.