Sunman mother works through her grief to help others
Benefit for HLH research set for Dec. 12 at Milan VFW

Wanda English Burnett, Editor

Facing the holidays without her son is something a Sunman mother hoped would never happen. But it did. A rare disease, Hemophagocytic Lympho Histiocytosis, (HLH) ravaged David Madison’s 17-year-old body last Thanksgiving and claimed his life just months later on March 31.

“Thanksgiving without my first born son...” April Borders clasped her hand to her mouth while tears coursed down her face. The thought is horrifying to her, but she refuses to idly sit by and let the disease claim more lives without a fight.

“This is what we can do,” commented Fred Elliott, quartermaster at the Milan VFW where Borders works. They are planning a benefit supper to raise money for the Histiocytosis Association of America. This group has launched a research campaign to try to learn more about the disease that only strikes one in a million people. Since HLH is so rare and has only had a title in the medical community since 2004, it does not garner government funding for research.

Borders describes HLH as a disease that allows white blood cells to come out in an immature form, collecting in the organs, ultimately shutting them down. It is truly rare to strike a teenager like her son and mostly is dominate in babies.

One day David was perfectly healthy, the next he could barely function and shortly thereafter, he was gone. The quick death sentence rocked the world of Borders and her family and she’s vowed to do everything in her power to help others diagnosed with HLH.

The fundraiser will be held December 12 from 4-8 p.m. at the Milan VFW. The spaghetti dinner will be complete with salad, garlic bread and a variety of great desserts. All proceeds will be given to HLH research

Although Thanksgiving will be one of the hardest days for Borders, she says she has so much to be thankful for. She is grateful to her employer for their generosity in sponsoring the event that honors the memory of her son and could potentially save the lives of others. She is thankful for a community that has responded in the past and know they will once again come through.

Borders says David’s four brothers “keep me going,” and noted the boys - Jonathan 16, Nathan 15, Duane 12 and Christian 11, will be helping with the benefit. “They mean everything to me,” she told The Versailles Republican. She also is grateful to Rev. Dan Steffen, pastor of the Cornerstone Ministries Church in Sunman, who has stood by the family since the beginning of David’s illness. “I don’t know what I would have done without the good Lord and Pastor Dan,” she admitted, saying the grief was overwhelming at times.

While there’s an empty place in her heart that no one else but David could fill, Borders says time does make a difference and the hope that she can stir enough interest in research to treat HLH keeps her going. “I can’t stand by and do nothing,” Borders noted. She has contacted popular television shows such as Oprah and Montel Williams to try to get them to do a segment on HLH patients. So far her efforts have fallen on deaf ears. But, she is not to be deterred. “I’ll keep writing, calling, contacting people until something gets done,” she vows.

The love for her son begs everyone to come to the free will donation benefit and not only share his memory but give to help others experiencing the same tragedy. “We don’t know what dollar is the one that will find a cure, but it may be just one of our very own... hopefully we can save another mother, father, or brother the devastation we have in our hearts today,” Borders concluded.

April Borders goes over the paperwork from the HLH research foundation with Fred Elliott, quartermaster of the Milan VFW where a spaghetti dinner benefit is being planned for December 12. Proceeds from the benefit will go to fund research to find a cure for the rare disease that took the life of her son, David.
A healthy David Madison, 17, smiles before his life was changed and ultimately taken by a rare disease called HLH.