9-year-old Madeline overcomes brain tumors to dance competitively and hold lemonade stands benefiting research

One day 9-year-old Madeline Horrell was fine. And the next day she was not.

But after recovering from two brain surgeries, the blue-eyed blonde is dancing up a storm and raising money so that her neurosurgeon, Jeff Leonard, MD, St. Louis Children's Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, can help other children.

In Fall 2005 Madeline had just started kindergarten in her hometown of Columbia, Mo., at the same school where her mother Teresa teaches. The Horrell family also includes father Rick, and 5-year-old sister Grace.

MadelineIn October Madeline began experiencing episodes of vomiting. Her pediatrician thought she had a virus, and then possibly migraines. A brain scan was scheduled for Oct. 20 at Boone Hospital in Columbia. On Oct. 19, Madeline went to school and then went shopping. The next morning, she could not get out of bed. After discovering a large mass in her brain, physicians at Boone Hospital immediately sent the Horrell family to St. Louis Children's Hospital.

Dr. Leonard performed surgery Oct. 21, to remove a 2-inch tumor in Madeline's cerebellum. "Dr. Leonard is an absolutely perfect doctor," Teresa says. "He saved Madeline's life."

Madeline recovered quickly, was back at school in January, and dancing by summer 2006.

A follow up MRI found a second one-to-two-centimeter tumor in December 2007. Madeline had surgery again on Dec. 17. "You are scared to death during the MRIs," Teresa says. "We try to stay busy and have fun when we return, because we don't want St. Louis to be negative for Madeline. When she asks me 'what if I have another tumor?' I tell her, 'Dr. Leonard will fix you again.'"

Madeline experienced some right-side paralysis after the second surgery. "It was really hard for awhile," Teresa says. "She had to learn how to use her right hand and leg again. She loves dance with a passion, and she had to learn to dance again."

And dance she did. Madeline takes ballet, tap and jazz, and dances in competitions in St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia. "Dance has done a lot for her confidence and to strengthen her right side," Teresa says. "Madeline has never said, 'why me?' It's amazing to think what she's been through. She has worked really hard to get where she is."

Madeline hosted a lemonade stand last May and raised money for Dr. Leonard's pediatric brain tumor research. She hopes to plan other fundraising events. "I want to raise money for research to help Dr. Leonard find a way to fix other kids with brain tumors," she says.

Madeline says Dr. Leonard is funny and cheers her up. "I would tell other kids with brain tumors to be brave and be lucky to have a doctor as good as Dr. Leonard," she says.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade and dance, like Madeline.


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