Karissa Waber knew something was seriously wrong as soon as her daughter Madison finished the barrel race. The then-15-year-old told her mother she couldn’t get off her horse.
It would be a year before Madison walked again.
“She was just sobbing, she couldn’t get off her horse because she couldn’t even move her leg,” Karissa Waber remembers, fighting back tears. “Just the horrible pain that she was in, I was really afraid something horrible was wrong with her.”
What followed was months of doctors and disbelief. The Montesano teen had noticed foot pain over the past several years, but that had been dismissed by several doctors as plantar fasciitis, a common foot complaint involving inflammation. Once she was unable to move a leg, her parents, Karissa and Ken, brought her to doctor after doctor with no solution. One podiatrist even dismissed her complaint as psychosomatic.
“He told her she could walk if she wanted to, she was just choosing not to. So that was horrible — to not even have a doctor that believed. I believed there was something wrong with her so we just kept searching,” Karissa Waber said.
Mike and Susan Randich directed them to a peripheral nerve surgeon in Baltimore. Dr. A. Lee Dellon is a founding member of the American Society for Peripheral Nerve, director of the Dellon Institutes for Peripheral Nerve surgery, and a professor of plastic surgery and neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Karissa Waber was indescribably relieved when he diagnosed Madison with compartment syndrome in her calf, possible a result of re-aggravation of an old injury over time. Her leg nerve was compressed in seven places, and at times was purple and cold.
Compartment syndrome involves increased pressure in a muscle compartment, often because of tissue swelling in the compartment, according to the National Institutes of Health. The compartment will not expand, so any swelling leads to increased pressure and, over time, serious damage to nerves and blood vessels.
Madison needed two surgeries to correct the problem.
“(Dellon) told me that people lose limbs over compartment syndrome, and that had she not had the surgery, she would be permanently handicapped,” Karissa Waber said.
Now Madison is in rehabilitation, getting stronger all the time. She’s expected to make a full recovery, her mother said. A 2011 Junior Princess in the Grays Harbor Mounted Posse Rodeo, Madison is an avid equestrian who hopes to ride again. She’s been doing her school work online for the past year, and hopes to come back to Montesano High School part-time after winter break.
The only snag in the otherwise happy ending: more than $115,000 in medical debt, plus travel expenses to Baltimore and Las Vegas, where the surgeries were performed.
Dellon doesn’t participate with insurance. The cost for the surgery center accommodations alone totaled $71,000 for the two surgeries, and insurance has offered to cover $1,400, Karissa Waber said. It’s been more than a month since she submitted the claim for the rest of the costs, but hasn’t heard back with an estimate. She doesn’t expect much.
“I don’t feel like I have a choice, I have a 16-year-old daughter who’s going to be permanently handicapped and he’s the only one who can fix it,” Karissa Waber said. “We’re just so grateful that it worked and she’s walking.”
But many in the community wanted to reach out. Total Image Salon hosted a wine and cheese night, and Grays Harbor Mounted Posse put on a gaming show, with all the proceeds for both events going to the Wabers’ medical bills. “I just want them to know how grateful we are for all of their support. We’re just grateful and blessed that we live in such a generous and thoughtful community,” Karissa Waber said. She added special thanks to the Randich family for their part in finding the diagnosis.
A family friend set up an account at Timberland Bank called “Donations for Madison Waber.” Donations may be made at any Timberland branch.