Tina Vaughn had never seen so many people in her hospital.
And they were all praying.
After Malori Maddox ended up in surgery with a brain bleed, her friends, family, and other acquaintances all started connecting in prayer. Churches sent out emails requesting prayers for the situation. Students at LCU gathered at the fountain to worship and pray. Many people immediately drove to Wichita Falls to join the Maddox family and others at Kell West Regional Hospital.
The growing, praying crowd was a miracle of its own.
When Malori’s Lubbock Christian University volleyball teammates arrived at Kell West, the only other people at the hospital were the Maddoxes. Marray Maddox came out while his daughter was being prepped for surgery. He told the team the bleed could be fatal.
Many of the team members’ families had attended the away game. It was unusual, but it was a God thing. They joined the team at the hospital after the game, though several families had accidentally driven to the larger hospital in town. As more parents arrived, the crowd in the waiting room grew.
The team’s families went into fix-it mode. Maddie Johnson’s mother cleaned the vomit out of the back seat of the Maddoxes’ car. Several dads went to gas stations to pick up some necessities for the team and for the Maddox family.
Kell West opened up the cafeteria so the hungry team could get some food.
When Christie, a hospital social worker, brought Sarah Maddox the bag of Malori’s hair, Sarah’s tears turned to weeping and wailing. She couldn’t stand, so she leaned on Coach Jennifer Lawrence. Seeing her hair had a hard impact for the team too. The reality became much harsher.
Marray was a rock, someone for the team to look toward. He never watered anything down or lessened the truth. He was painfully realistic, but at the same time set a tone of hope, confidence, and faith. His trust in God was infectious, something to depend on in the chaos of emotions.
Kacey Deterding called Jennifer McCully, who coached Kacey and Malori at Frenship High School, to explain what happened. McCully suggested some healing scriptures to read.
The team grabbed Bibles from the bus to read out loud. They read for an hour. Every time they tried praying, they cried, just from speaking aloud. They stepped outside to sing “There Is Power in the Name of Jesus” to try and lift their spirits.
No one slept for the six hours they were at the hospital or on the bus ride back to Lubbock in the early morning. They all would have given blood – anything to help Malori – in a heartbeat. They just wanted her back.
The Midwestern State University volleyball team showed up not long after the Lady Chaps. They were still in their jerseys from the game. They brought big gallons of coffee, snacks, and toothbrushes to share with the Lady Chaps. They offered for the Lady Chaps to stay with them or come over if they needed showers, should they need to spend the night in Wichita Falls.
The two teams got to know each other more and got along very well. They bonded during the time in the waiting room.
Even after they left, the Midwestern team kept in touch, asking for regular updates.
After the email went out at LCU, several members of the LCU community drove to Wichita Falls. Andy Laughlin, Toby Rogers, and Jeff Cary, all some of Malori’s valued professors, and other LCU folk showed up to join the family in prayer and solidarity.
Elders came from a local church in Wichita Falls to lead worship, offering to pray when it became too hard to speak aloud for those closest to Malori.
Every time a new group arrived, the praying began again with renewed vigor.
In total, about 100 people gathered in the Kell West atrium to support Malori. Tina, a Kell West nurse, was amazed at the number of people and how quiet and reverent they were. She thought the group – holding hands and praying together – looked like a star.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
-Psalm 46: 1-3 (NIV)
Around 10 p.m., in the middle of Malori’s surgery, an elderly woman approached Sarah. “Are you the mother of the girl fighting for her life?” she asked. “I’m from Graham. I’m here for a friend. I have a Bible in the back seat of my car. I didn’t know who I was going to give it to. But I think it’s for you.”
Sarah couldn’t eat and couldn’t sleep. She felt sick. She could barely stand. She tried to be calm, but the worry chipped away at her. She learned the true meaning of “weeping and wailing” that night.
Marray was trying to be strong for his family, but all he could think was, “Lord, please save my daughter.” He felt like he needed to just fall to his knees and lay it at God’s feet. After all, He was the only one who could save her. So many little things needed to align right for Malori to survive.
Maci was scared for her sister’s life, but she didn’t want to panic. She was trying to be like her mom. She kept getting text messages with questions and concerns. She wanted to throw her phone against a wall.
Peyton felt more at peace at the hospital than he had on the drive from Oklahoma, but he just didn’t know if his sister would survive. It was such a shock, it made him sick to his stomach. By the end of the surgery, Peyton had been awake for 24 hours.
Malori’s boyfriend, Tyler Rogers, felt like the least informed person at the hospital. He couldn’t fathom what was going on, even though he knew the facts. He was scared, unsettled, and didn’t have the heart to think about the girl he loved dying on the operating table.
By the grace of God, she didn’t.
Once the bleeding had been stopped, Malori had to be wheeled through the main hallway to a follow up CAT scan. With so many people, it was impossible to get her through unseen.
Dr. Yogish Kamath, who had saved Malori’s life, had never seen so many people there praying for a patient. Usually patients had family members and a few friends, but no gathering of the magnitude Malori had.
Kamath told the family Malori was alive, but that she would need to be moved to Dallas, where the entire AVM could be removed with a more precise surgery. His efforts that night had been about stopping the bleeding, controlling the swelling, and preserving her life.
“It will be touch and go for the next few days. The next 72 hours are critical,” he told them. He told them that they planned to airlift her to Zale Lipshy, a renowned neurological treatment facility, within a couple of hours. He’d called ahead and spoken with the neurosurgeon who would follow her progress in Dallas.
In the dark morning hours of November 11, Marray flew with Malori to Dallas in a small plane.
The army of prayer warriors who invaded Kell West to pray to God on Malori’s behalf would follow her to Dallas as the next chapters of her recovery followed.
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 Jennifer Lawrence, LCU Volleyball coach