Madison (Maddy) is an 18-year-old high school senior from Ocoee, Florida, who hopes to work towards a medical degree, inspired by a chemistry teacher, her metabolic medical team, and the dietitians who have guided her in managing her PKU. Madison’s first birthday cake (shared with her fraternal twin sister, who also has PKU) was made from a recipe from Virginia Schuett’s Low Protein Cookery for PKU, and her family has always been supportive in managing her PKU. Maddy says, “Having PKU is a way of life and I am grateful to PKU News for proving resources such as cookbooks, low protein food lists, and the newsletters my parents received early in my life to help them adjust.”
A member of the National Honor Society (NHS) and 39th in her graduating class of over 1000 students, Maddy has excelled academically throughout high school while taking a challenging course load, passed 3 AP courses and was on the honor roll all four years of high school. Like many young adults with PKU, Madison wrote about her life with PKU for her college essay on the subject of “What experiences or circumstances have shaped or influenced you?”
Maddy takes very seriously the National Honor Society motto of “others before self” and has volunteered for diverse organizations, from a charity that provides support to children an adults with Down Syndrome, to the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, where she was a “kitty cuddler,” helping to socialize cats who can later then be adopted into the community. Her work with the NHS included relief following last year’s hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. She also served as a juror on a teen court, advising on sentencing for other teens who were first-time criminal offenders.
Maddy works at Macaroni Grill, where she started as a hostess but soon added food runner to her list of jobs, which proved challenging, trying to learn and remember the names of all the high-protein dishes she usually wouldn’t pay attention to. Madison struggled with managing a hectic high school schedule and her PKU diet — particularly taking formula through the day — but worked it out with the help of her dietitian and has maintained good blood-phe levels throughout school. She’s lucky enough to have friends who created a “Friendsgiving” event for her, with low-protein dishes including sautéed zucchini and squash.
Of Maddy, her high school principal says, “Maddy is one of the finer students and people I have encountered in my two decades of teaching… She is bright, brave, and unselfish, and I respect her immensely.”
PKU has giving Madison an insight into and empathy for other people well beyond her years. She says, “knowing that people can’t physically see that I have PKU makes me realize that other people are going through struggles that I can’t see, and gives me a compassionate view of what others may be struggling with—seen or unseen.”