Heart of Gold

BRAD KEITH brad.keith@empiretribune.com
Maddie McLemore

Maddie McLemore believes her life to be a puzzle, and she believes the puzzle has an answer.

Maddie, 12, is the daughter of Stephenville ISD school board trustee and local business owner Doug McLemore and Stephenville High School teacher Emily McLemore. And by all appearances, she is your typical seventh grade student at Henderson Junior High.

But McLemore is not your typical seventh grader. Because she suffers from a very atypical disease.

"Maddie looks so healthy. When you see Maddie, you don't see a child who is struggling just to make it through the day," reads a release from the SISD athletic department. "Yet Maddie struggles almost daily with chronic joint pain, respiratory problems and fatigue, and this is when her kidney disease is in remission."

McLemore lives with an autoimmune kidney disease call IgA Nephropathy and a number of symptomatic conditions such as chronic pain, fatigue, respiratory problems, allergies and a compromised immune system.

This Friday, she'll be the honoree at Stephenville's annual Heart of Gold game when the Yellow Jackets host three-time defending 4A Division II champ Aledo at 7:30 p.m. at Tarleton Memorial Stadium.

T-shirts are being sold for $12 at all SISD campuses to commemorate the special week, and proceeds will go to the McLemore family.

Even after years of testing and seeing teams of specialists, the root of Maddie's struggles has not been found. This is largely because of the extreme rarity of IgA Nephropathy in female children, with only one girl per 100,000 victims of the disease. Because of this, very little research has been conducted, prognosis can only be predicted and no certainty given."

Maddie, however, has remained positive through it all, sharing with those closest to her her own heart of gold.

"The way I think of it is like you are given one puzzle piece every once in a while, and without knowing how many pieces there are, but that doesn't matter," Maddie said. "Your life will add up as the whole puzzle if you believe there is an answer."

Stephenville athletics wants everyone to give Maddie another piece to that puzzle Friday night; the kind that can only come from a community that shares her heart of gold.

Follow Brad Keith on Twitter @etsports