As we chatted with the Madden family over the Easter weekend of 2015, none of us had any idea of what was about to take place for them in the following few days.
Children’s entertainers, Russ and Helena with their four children, were beginning their ‘Go Frills’ Easter holiday tour through Toowoomba, St George, Roma and Chinchilla and the family was excited.
An outback tour to reach children who had little exposure to live entertainment, had been in the planning for some time and was now a reality. This was to be a gift to the country towns who had been struggling through a tough drought, in the hope it would bring a little joy into some difficult times.
With the whole family in tow, they travelled from their gig in Toowoomba to St George. It was here that their 11year old daughter, Jordana complained of a sore ankle. So sore in-fact, that she was unable to perform in their St George Go Frills concert.
Jordana’s life is full of activity so her mum, Helena thought she had tumbled on her ankle or something. With a love for surfing and playing soccer, Jordana’s ultimate love is aerobic gymnastics which she had been training hard at in preparation for three major upcoming events.
Thinking it was a fracture due to swelling and increasing pain, Helena took her to the local hospital for X-rays. No break was found but while in hospital, Jordana spiked a temperature and a rash appeared spreading up her legs and torso.
Blood tests were taken and antibiotics were administered through a drip. It was thought an infection was present and with no improvement after day two in hospital, concern was raised and Jordana was airlifted to Toowoomba with 10minutes warning, to undergo further treatment.
While Jordana was being airlifted with her mum to hospital and undergoing hours of x-rays and ultrasounds, the rest of the Madden team performed their Go Frills concert in Roma and Chinchilla. Characters and parts had to be adjusted to cover their missing mum and sister but this amazing family worked together and pulled it off remarkably well.
With Jordana insisting the tour not be cancelled, Russ and the kids continued to bring the Go Frills show to the children in the drought-stricken areas while Helena stayed with Jordana.
After more testing, the doctors found an infection mass on her ankle and diagnosed her with osteomyelitis. With the family rejoining them, Jordana was booked into surgery where her bone was scraped.
“Being in hospital was scary at first,” says Jordana, “I didn’t know what was wrong with me.” Jordana tells of the pain of having a Cannula inserted on four occasions as well as countless blood tests and the thought of facing surgery without knowing what the outcome would be. These things are something that would test the courage of any adult and certainly tested Jordana and her family. But despite all of this, Jordana says she had a growing peace.
Russ and Helena recall the range of emotions Jordana experienced.
“She went from “get me out of here” to “hey, if I have to stay for weeks, that’s ok,” says Russ.
They were both amazed as they watched their little girl change her attitude to the point where she could implicitly trust that her Heavenly Father had everything under control and that she need not fear.
“I started feeling like everything would be alright and I would be going home soon,” she says. “I knew God was looking after me and I didn’t have to be afraid anymore.”
Originally expecting that Jordana would need to remain in hospital for weeks and have multiple surgeries to clear the infection, the doctors were astounded with her recovery. After just seven days in hospital and just three days post surgery, Jordana was given the all clear to go home.
The next step of the journey brought a new set of challenges. Unable to walk without crutches for six weeks, and on an extremely high dose of antibiotics, Jordana amazingly continued her training for her upcoming aerobic gymnastic competitions, working mainly on upper body strength. This inspiring little girl had three routines on the go and was determined to persist even with this major deterrent of extra pain and limitation.
She received the go-ahead from the doctors to compete again and astounded everyone when she brought home a gold medal in her individual and two silvers in two group divisions at a regional gymnastics meet after only eight weeks of recovery.
This then qualified her for the State Championships where she once again floored everyone with incredible performances bringing home another gold medal and one bronze gaining her selection into the Queensland team. The family, being her greatest supporters, were overwhelmed with her results.
Jordana then went on to travel to Bendigo, Victoria for the Aerobic Gymnastics National Championships where she received one gold and two bronze medals in level 5 individual and group competitions.
Although Jordana doesn’t see what all the fuss is about, her phenomenal determination and strength is evident and inspiring. She may be tiny on the outside but this girl has the strength of a lion within.
(C) Rebecca Moore 2016
Originally published for The Good Life Magazine, Autumn 2016