Hospital stay inspires Geneva teen to help others
Confined to bed, waiting for broken bones to heal. That's plenty to vex anyone, let alone an active teenager.
Lindsey McDonald, 15, had all sorts of summer plans: family vacations, going to concerts and practicing her horse-riding skills. She's a champion on the hunter-jumper show circuit, evidenced by the dozens and dozens of show ribbons that ring the walls of two rooms at her house in Geneva.
Those plans were abruptly canceled in June, when a horse fell on her.
But instead of wallowing in self-pity, Lindsey focused on kids who had it worse than her.
She started Lindsey's Seeds of Love Fund, to raise money for the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago Foundation.
Lindsey rides hunter and jumper horses, competing at the "A" level, typically the most demanding at shows. Last season, she earned her varsity letter from the U.S. Equestrian Foundation's high school athlete program.
On June 5, she was preparing to ride Phinney, a jumper she leased and had ridden many times before, during an event at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne. She didn't know Phinney was suffering from a painful, undiagnosed degenerative spinal condition.
As she started mounting, Phinney reared. Lindsey fell on to her right hip, and Phinney fell on top of her.
She suffered four breaks in her pelvis, hip sockets and sacrum. She also tore ligaments and muscles. She couldn't move her legs.
"She thought she was paralyzed," said her mother, Amy McDonald.
Taken initially to Delnor Hospital in Geneva, Lindsey was transferred to Lurie. She spent nine days there while doctors determined whether she needed surgery or if the breaks were stable enough to heal without it. Ultimately, they decided to let them heal on their own.
The result was a simple but annoying treatment: She had to be still all summer, doctors told her parents.
That meant eight weeks living in a hospital bed set up in the living room, then 14 weeks in a wheelchair. When standing, she was allowed to put weight on her left leg for only 15 seconds at a time.
All of this gave Lindsey a lot of time to think.
"I was lucky to have grandparents and mom and dad supporting me (at Lurie)" Lindsey said, recalling how they brought her gifts, candy, even soup.
But other children weren't getting anything -- "not even a balloon," she said. Lindsey learned that for many of the younger, sicker patients, their families struggled -- not just with their children's hospitalization, but also with needing to go to work and to take care of younger children at home.
"It was really eye-opening," Lindsey said.
She also noticed that patients -- and their parents, staying at the Ronald McDonald House -- could use more toiletries.
"Having your hair washed makes you feel so much better," Lindsey said, recalling her own experience in the hospital.
So at home, with her MacBook in her lap, she decided to raise money for the hospital, to provide the extras that cheer for its patients and help their families.
She is selling T-shirts and rubber wristbands with the "Seeds of Love" phrase and logo. So far, she has raised more than $4,000.
The campaign is part of the Circle of Friends of the hospital foundation. Donations are tax-deductible because the money goes directly to the foundation, which has tax-exempt status.
"It was nice of them to let me (affiliate)," Lindsey said.
"We are so grateful for Lindsey McDonald's inspired fundraising," said Ashley Lavore, Lurie Children's Foundation's development coordinator for Circle of Friends. "The funds raised by Lindsey's Seeds of Love will support patient care at Lurie Children's, helping to ensure that our most precious resource -- our children -- have every opportunity to grow and thrive."
Later this month, Lindsey will meet with officials at Children's to choose what to spend the money on. Beside toiletries, Lindsey said she wants the children to get supplies for arts and crafts projects.
Her mother was amazed at her attitude during her convalescence, especially because of the fun she missed. "She just let that bounce off her," Amy McDonald said. The Seeds of Love Fund project "kept her focused on something."
Back to normal
Lindsey's injuries have healed, although she is still working on getting full extension in her left leg. She is back in school at Wheaton Academy, where she is a sophomore and recently won one of six school scholarships based on grades, community service, extracurricular participation and athletics.
She's also back to winning ribbons at horse shows (but not with Phinney, who was euthanized due to his back problem).
Two weeks after doctors gave her the OK to ride again, she competed at the A Show Finals and won two championships, one in hunter and one in equitation.
She practices several hours a day, up to six days a week, at Bull Run Equestrian Center in Elburn.
But she hasn't forgotten about the Seeds of Love Fund. She still has T-shirts and bracelets to sell, and is planning a toiletries-collection drive.
"It's been pretty cool," Lindsey said. "It's a good way to give back."