She's only 10, but looks like she has soldiered through some war. She's long-limbed and bony, and her eyes are red and tired after multiple surgeries for detached retinas.
“I play by myself at recess all the time,” said Maddy Collins about experiences at South Ridge Elementary School in Castle Rock.
Some kids call her “alien” and she sits alone at lunch, because they worry if their trays touch hers, they'll have to throw their food away.
That's what Maddy, who was born with Marfan syndrome, faces from many classmates. And then there's what she and her family face every day.
There is a long list of things she can't do. So that she can live.
“If she takes a sharp blow to the chest, that could be the end to Maddy,” said Maddy Collins' mother, Tara McGuire, 30, of Castle Rock.
Maddy has an enlarged aorta that can tear easily because of the fragile way it's constructed. And that's only one of many physical issues. Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder in which the “glue” that hold the body's connective tissue together is defective and so causes a myriad of problems — everything from heart problems to skeletal and visions issues. Maddy has had surgeries for all of that.
She dislocated her elbow once, just by moving her arm a little too quickly while dancing. Her skin is thin, and she has little muscle. She can't jump on a trampoline or other strenuous activities, mainly to protect that aorta. But she can swim and loves it, she said, although she can't go to the neighborhood Burgess Memorial Pool, about a block from the family's rented duplex, because of the entrance fee.
The Castle Rock Recreation Center months ago gave Maddy and family a free one-year membership so she can participate in the main form of exercise OK'd by doctors and concerned family.
“Things are tight,” McGuire said.
McGuire can only work part-time because of the constant trips to Children's Hospital, and the family of three children depends mostly on her husband's new job as an electrical engineer. But she said the medical bills keep coming in and there are mechanical problems with her car, so there's one car left for Maddy's stepfather's commute and for her hospital trips. There isn't money for new clothes or for gymnastics classes for Maddy's older sister.
It's not a well-known disease, so families and friends are planning a fundraising event for Maddy from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at a location arranged by a family friend, in the Sapphire Pointe neighborhood's clubhouse at 7550 Soapstone Way, in Castle Rock. The event is called Spa for a Cause, with all proceeds going to Maddy's medical fund. There will be facials offered, massages from licensed massage therapists, demonstrations and appetizers.
McGuire said the event isn't about raising a ton of money — although that would help — as much as it is giving people the chance to meet Maddy and hear her story, eliminate fears, and get to know the girl who wants to become a doctor.
“I want to help people,” Maddy said.
If you go
Fundraiser for Maddy Collins
What: Spa for a Cause
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 20
Where: 7550 Soapstone Way, Castle Rock
For more information: 720-854-8737