On the night Malori Maddox suffered a potentially fatal brain bleed, her family and friends started streaming to Wichita Falls from parts of Texas and, in the case her brother, other states.
These are their stories.
Peyton Maddox was shopping for groceries at Wal-Mart with his roommates when he got a frantic call from his younger sister, Maci.
She tried to explain to him amid tears that their sister, Malori, was in the hospital with a brain bleed. After a few moments, their father Marray took the phone from her and tried to calm Peyton down with the details they knew.
Peyton didn’t take time to think. He left the grocery cart in the store and had his roommates drive him back to his dorm at Southwestern Oklahoma State University as quickly as they could.
He only took time to get a toothbrush, contact solution, and his truck from the dorm before starting the two-hour-plus drive from Weatherford, Oklahoma to Wichita Falls, Texas.
Peyton drove in complete silence save Siri directing him and his phone buzzing with texts and calls from family and friends. He couldn’t respond; he didn’t even really know what had happened. His mind raced 100 mph, and he felt he was driving that fast too.
He arrived to find a community already gathered at the hospital. His mom Sarah hugged him. He joined the prayer. He started addressing calls and messages on his phone. Though he felt more at peace with his family, he still didn’t know what was happening.
After the surgery, he saw his sister for the first time. Peyton was shocked by the realness of it: her appearance, her shaved head, and the machinery sustaining her. He felt sick to see how much she’d changed in so little time.
At the volleyball game between Lubbock Christian University vs. Midwestern State University – the game Malori left with a terrifying headache – the teams were tied 22-22 in the third game when Coach Jennifer Lawrence heard Malori had a brain bleed.
She made a decision: if the Lady Chaps won the game, they would go to the hospital next, and if they lost, they would forfeit the match and go to hospital anyway.
The Lady Chaps won, taking three games in a row. They shook hands with the Mustang players and huddled together on the court.
“We’re not getting ice, we’re not stopping to talk,” Jennifer told them. “Get on the bus. Malori has a brain bleed.”
The Lady Chaps packed up and changed on the bus.
The ride to the hospital was scarily quiet.
Mallory Powell, Malori’s roommate, looked up a brain bleed on her phone. It was a bad idea; the Internet diagnosis scared her into tears. Several of her team members gave her a hug to try and comfort her.
Most of the team was struggling to process Malori’s situation. Some were shocked. Some were crying. They thought Malori was going to die. The panic only set in worse when they arrived at Kell West Regional Hospital.
When the team arrived, it was just them and the Maddoxes. Marray met them and said the bleed could be fatal – they needed to pray.
Tyler Rogers, Malori’s boyfriend since high school, was going to go to the game in Wichita Falls on Nov. 10, but needed to have a meeting with Chap basketball coach Todd Duncan that kept him in Lubbock.
Instead, he picked up Buffalo Wild Wings to-go order and went to Malori’s apartment to set up a live-stream of the game. As he tried to hook the computer up to the television, he got a frantic call from Maci. She was crying, telling him something happened to Mal.
At first, his mind went to a rolled ankle or a broken arm. As athletes, they see those kinds of injuries all the time. But Maci could barely speak through the tears. She said Malori was in the hospital. In the background, Tyler heard Sarah telling Maci that Tyler needed to “get here now.”
He left quickly, taking his wings in the car, and driving to Plainview, where his parents lived.
He tried to get more information from Maci while acting like he wasn’t freaking out. He told her he was on his way.
He told Coach Duncan he might not make it to practice the next day if Malori’s condition was as bad as it sounded.
It all sounded so scary.
Tyler had been planning to talk to Sarah and Marray about marrying Malori.
Suddenly, his dreams became tenuous.
What if he wouldn’t get to marry Mal? What if he couldn’t spend his life with her?
His adrenaline was pumping through the roof while his phone blew up with family, friends, and teammates wanting to know what was going on.
His cousin, Aaron Stephenson, called to see if he was OK. He asked Tyler to put the phone on speaker. Aaron stayed on the phone while he drove, to keep him company and comfort him.
Tyler felt helpless. He was 100 miles away and couldn’t do anything for the woman he loved.
Marray always would say prayer was the best thing anyone could do, so Tyler prayed.
When he reached Plainview, he was crying. His mom had to hold him up as they got in the car together. His parents were scared too. They loved Malori like she was part of their family.
The drive from Plainview to Wichita Falls was the longest Tyler had ever experienced.
He still had his wings. His parents encouraged him to eat, but he couldn’t touch them.
The first thing he saw at the hospital was Sarah walking out crying.
And the only thing he could think was: did they tell her Mal died?
Dr. Brian Starr, executive vice president of LCU, was home sick with a sinus infection and fever when he got a text saying, “Please hit your knees right now, and pray for Malori.”
The text from Sarah had been forwarded to Brian by Randal Dement, the university’s vice president of student affairs.
Though there were many regulations to contend with, the family wanted prayer warriors.
LCU knows how to do that.
He thought of contacting university president Tim Perrin, but LCU’s leader was on a plane. He knew the Maddoxes would be OK even if he technically was violating FERPA – the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
At 8:53 p.m., an email was sent to all students, staff, and faculty:
“Malori Maddox, LCU volleyball player, came out of the game at Midwestern State with a severe headache. Doctors have found a brain bleed, and she is currently in surgery. Her family requests prayers for Malori and the doctors tending to her at this critical time. Pray for Malori.”
Immediately, the message started to go viral on social media, mobilizing prayer groups and spreading the news.
Students started showing up on campus, gathering at the Fountains on the Mall to pray for Malori. As more people posted, more people came to join in prayer. Some prayed until they heard Malori made it through surgery.
Brian prayed at home with his family, but was moved by the response of students to the request for prayers. To him, the gathering was a miracle on its own – a miracle of changed hearts, strengthened faith and a fulfilment of Ephesians 1:10:
“… To be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment — to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”
When Sarah’s brother, Stephen Hanks, received the first text from Sarah about his niece’s condition, he felt the reaction might be over dramatic.
But then his other sister, Rachel Martin, called in hysterics, saying Malori had been taken into surgery.
He called their mom, Malori’s Nana, and asked her to wait in Lubbock until a friend could swing by and drive with her. He would have taken her himself, but he was away from his home in Lubbock on business in Amarillo, where Rachel lived.
Nana took off for Wichita Falls anyway.
Stephen went directly to Rachel’s house. She was on the phone with Stephen’s wife, Jenelle, when he got there. She’d already been on the phone since hearing the news.
“Stephen,” she said, “Mal may not make it.”
The two of them took off southeast on Highway 287 to Wichita Falls.
Stephen didn’t realize how serious this was until his phone dinged with an update from KCBD that an LCU volleyball player was suffering from a brain bleed.
As the reality settled in, he made the decision to pick up the pace. He turned on his hazards and took off speeding.
He was promptly pulled over.
Stephen told the policeman his niece was in surgery and might not survive.
The officer asked if Stephen was the doctor. Stephen worried his and Rachel’s frustration may get them into more trouble. But the officer surprised them. Even though they’d been going about 110 mph on the highway, the officer let them off with a warning. But he told them he wouldn’t radio ahead and they would need to slow down for the rest of the way.
They agreed – until they were pulled over again about 45 minutes later. After that, they slowed their pace down to a legal speed.
They arrived at Kell West close to midnight and joined in praying.
Kelsey Miller was at a Texas Tech Powder Puff intramural game when she saw a message circulating Facebook to pray for Malori.
She’d known Malori since they played sports against each other in elementary school. They started hanging out in fifth grade, attending the same middle school and playing volleyball together at high school. Even when Kelsey quit volleyball, the two stayed friends.
Their families were also good friends.
During high school, the Maddoxes, Millers and a few other families took a Caribbean cruise together. Kelsey remembers it as the first time they got to go somewhere together. And how cool and free they’d felt being on their own on the boat.
She also cherished memories of camping with Malori.
When her mom called, she realized it was serious. Kelsey left her apartment to go to her parents’ house as soon as she could.
The gate at her apartment wouldn’t open. She backed the car up to try and trigger the sensor. Another car backed out into her with a loud crash.
The other driver thought Kelsey was crying because she’d hit them. But the accident was the least of her concerns. The two parties exchanged information, but Kelsey explained there was a family emergency, and she had to go.
The Millers piled into the the car and drove straight to Wichita Falls. Kelsey had a test the next day and an interview for occupational therapy school two days later, but that all seemed irrelevant right now.
They got there as Malori finished surgery.
Sarah was holding Malori’s hair.
It all felt so unreal.
Bailey Wilbanks was at a friend’s birthday party at Texas A&M when she first saw a post about Malori. After thinking it could be just a rolled ankle, her mom called to tell her it could be far worse.
Bailey had known Malori since 6th grade. They played volleyball together growing up: in club, in middle school, and in high school. The girls had a small, close-knit group of friends who started volleyball together and stayed together ever since.
Their moms were close friends as well, and news was spreading fast.
Bailey started to freak out, calling the friends who might know more. Part of her still expected it to be OK. But she was told it was bad. Something with her brain. They’d shaved her hair. Bailey lost herself in hysterics as she asked her roommate for a ride home.
But she couldn’t just sit at home and wait for updates. Her mom didn’t think she should drive while she was so emotional. Her roommate offered to drive, but Bailey insisted she drive so she could do something, keep busy.
They left College Station, heading for Wichita Falls – more than four hours away.
Malori had always been such a positive influence for Bailey. She’d never gotten to tell Malori how much her and her family’s faith impacted her life and hoped she’d get that chance.
Malori had been faithful in her academics, relationship, and faith. She was mature, encouraging, and persistent in seeking Jesus in a deep and intimate way. Her faith and friendship was genuine.
Bailey felt guilty for not seeing her since August. She wished she’d spent more intentional time with her while she could.
She got pulled over for speeding. The officer let her off with a warning.
Her mom called when Malori’s surgery was done. Malori was being moved to Dallas. Bailey’s mom was heading to Dallas to get a hotel there. She told Bailey to meet her there.
Bailey redirected towards Dallas, hoping she might see her friend again – and alive.
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 L. Timothy Perrin, LCU president