Malori Maddox’s life was a clear, blue sky where everything seemed to be going right, but dark clouds loomed on the horizon. A massive storm was brewing. For years, something had been off in the back of her head – literally. But with things flowing smoothly in her life, the pressure on her mind was – and the clouds in the distance were – easy to dismiss.
And things were going smoothly. Malori began her sophomore year at Lubbock Christian University as a full-time student pursuing a degree in pre-physical therapy. She wore number 5 for the Lady Chaps volleyball team and dated her high school sweetheart, Tyler Rogers, who played for the Chaps basketball team.
Most important, she had a family based strongly in faith who attended church regularly at Greenlawn Church of Christ. And it went beyond just going to church The Maddoxes were a Christian household.
When the family traveled or was unable to attend Greenlawn, they held their own devotional. When they traveled for athletic events, they invited the team to join in worship with them. The Maddoxes would read scripture and discuss, singing a song or two if there were other guests in attendance.
Malori grew up in the Lubbock area attending Frenship ISD, which helped her realize how valuable her family's faith was. Before connecting with many of her friends in school, she’d assumed a family of faith was the norm. To the Maddoxes, God’s word and their faith was equated to bread and butter.
Though Malori learned not every family had a structure of faith, her dad, Marray, told her and her siblings to get spiritual nourishment every day. He emphasized lessons like, “We’re just as desperate for God’s word as we are food and drink,” and “surround yourself with other believers, not people who will pull you down.”
After a time of closely studying Scripture with her father, Malori’s parents encouraged her to make her faith her own. She decided to take on Christ in baptism before she planned to attend her summer church camp, Camp Montekela, which she felt would be a special time to take that step. Marray baptized Malori in a cold creek when she was 14.
But there was a lone dark cloud in an otherwise clear sky: Malori felt like something was growing behind her eyes. Throughout high school, Malori found herself crying herself to sleep some nights, worried that something was wrong with her.
At Thanksgiving in 2014, she told her family she may have a tumor. She described a pressure in her head, something off, but she couldn’t quite put a finger on why. Her mother, Sarah, suggested she see an optometrist. Malori tried to find an eye doctor, but never found time to fit into her busy schedule: between church, school, and volleyball. And she wasn’t too worried about it – if it were a tumor, the pain would be much worse.
The storm struck November 10, 2015 with the force of a hurricane.
November 10 began like any normal day for Malori. She started with an anatomy test from her professor, Dr. Andy Laughlin. After lunch, she got on a bus with her volleyball teammates to travel to a non-conference, regular season game in Wichita Falls against Midwestern State University.
Once they began to drive, her teammates noticed her behavior was a little off. Instead of working on her homework and studying, Malori finished her devotional for the day, then napped the rest of the way. Though it wasn’t normal behavior for her, it wasn’t unreasonable behavior for an average college student.
That night, Malori’s whole family, except her brother who was at school in Oklahoma, attended the game in Wichita Falls. Malori’s younger sister, Maci, had plans that fell through, so she joined their parents. On a weeknight away game, three hours from their home in Lubbock, the gathering of Maddoxes in the stands was a bit unconventional.
Everything else was normal. Until the game started.
For her first rotation, Malori seemed fine. But as she began her second rotation, she began missing obvious volleys. She would move for a ball, but then miss it completely. Her vision was starting to go bad, but Malori thought she must just not be feeling well. She was confused every time the ball sailed past her.
Coach Jennifer Lawrence was also surprised. Malori was usually consistent, but then again, the game seemed off for the whole team.
But then Malori noticed her vision closing in on the right side and her confusion turned to frustration and panic. She kept playing until she rotated out and sat down on the bench.
Malori turned to her teammate, Kyleigh Lecia, with a frightened expression to tell her that she was having trouble seeing. She had to turn her head entirely to see straight on. “My head hurts really bad,” Malori said, face paling.
The team trainer, Rachel Hunt, came to look at her, worried Malori might be experiencing a migraine. Rachel motioned to Malori’s family to come down from the stands, pointing first to Malori’s head and then to the locker room. Marray rushed down right away.
Moving to the locker room was the last thing Malori could clearly remember. She couldn’t remember saying anything, just a few vague images, nothing distinct.
Sarah and Maci gathered their stuff from where they were sitting and hurried to join Marray and Malori in the locker room. Malori couldn’t remember the pain, but her family could see it in her action. She gripped her head and rocked back and forth, crying.
Rachel asked if Malori ever struggled with migraines, but she never had.
Sarah was worried that something far worse was wrong.
Sarah was right.
A little more than a year ago, LCU volleyball player Malori Maddox almost died in Wichita Falls after suffering a massive brain bleed. Her story has been told in various media, but the Maddox family wanted to make sure it was told as God’s story. The family spent a number of hours meeting with LCU’s Marketing and Communications Department to tell this story in a way that would further God’s Kingdom. Each chapter is written in narrative, much like a novel. Accompanying each chapter are devotional questions and prayer recommendations (see below) for readers to use based on the chapter’s theme. Each chapter will appear on LCU’s website every week, except for the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
By Tyler Rogers, Malori’s longtime boyfriend when the brain bleed happened, now her husband