April 3, 1999 should have been one of the happiest days in the lives of Jeff and Stephanie Hasenkampf. It was the day their first daughter was born. Instead, it was a time of fear and uncertainty.
"Each day was a challenge, each hour was a challenge really, not knowing what to expect," said Stephanie.
Weighing just two pounds and 13 ounces baby Madison was more than two months premature. Her first eight weeks of life were spent in the hospital with tubes, monitors and an special crib serving as an artificial womb. It would be days before her own parents could even touch her.
"It was definitely unfamiliar territory. It was our first child and we expected to bring her home and have her room painted and bring her home to the crib and it was all set up, and we actually had to leave the hospital and leave our baby there," recalled Jeff.
Preemie babies are at a risk for a host of health problems including heart and respiratory issues. But Madison was a fighter. With the help of the medical staff she overcame the odds and a tiny start has led to a big future.
"To see her grow and be so beautiful and intelligent and kind hearted, it's just been wonderful to watch and witness and I can't believe she's ours," said Stephanie.
"She participates in all sports, she swims, she runs, softball, volleyball, basketball. There's been nothing that's held her back in anyway. She's grown out of all the issues she had," said Jeff.
In fact, Madi - as she is known to her friends - only had one lingering effect from her early birth. She suffered from asthma until the age of six when she outgrew the disorder.
By that time, she also had a little sister. Because doctors figured out why her mother went into labor early with Madi, sister Melanie was carried to full term.
However, Madi doesn't dwell too much on her humble start.
"Well, when I hear the story, I'm like 'not again,' but it's kind of unreal," said Madi smiling. "It just kind of shocks me and I feel like I'm lucky to be here."
Madi is now busy celebrating her graduation from eighth grade, where she was named class salutatorian, and looking forward to her first year in high school.
"In high school I'm going to keep my old friends but I can't wait to meet new people. Just try new things and enjoy it," said the 14-year-old.
Madi's parents hope her story will give hope to other parents with preemies.
"Stick together with your family and God and pray everything will turn out," said Stephanie.
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