KILLEEN, Texas — Madison Barnett and her family spent Mother's Day happily playing card games Sunday. The scene was a stark contrast from their lives just a few days ago when they were almost certain Maddie would go blind.
The 18-year-old girl has spent a third of her young life battling keratoconus, a rare, progressive eye disease that affects fewer than 200,000 people a year in the United States.
The disease causes the eye's cornea to thin and bulge out into a cone-like shape, distorting vision.
Doctors said that without proper surgery, Maddie's eyesight would worsen until she was eventually blind.
This was the reality Maddie's family prepared for when they were told their insurance provider would not cover the $5,000 procedure, saying it was not "medically necessary."
Luckily, the community stepped in and rallied to raise funds so the family could pay for the surgery themselves.
After Maddie's story aired on KCEN Channel 6 News, donations poured in. In less than 48 hours, the family's GoFundMe campaign exceeded its $7,000 goal.
By Sunday night, 64 donors had contributed $7,745 to the campaign.
Maddie said she couldn't believe the support she received.
"It means a lot," Maddie said. "I can get my surgery and not go blind."
Ray Clayton contributed $4,500 to the campaign on behalf of his late wife who also had eye problems.
"My wife Jane passed away last year," Ray said. "This gave me an opportunity to do something for her on Mother's Day that would have real meaning."
Mother's Day will never be the same for Maddie's mom, Phyllis Bailey.
"It is unbelievable. As a mom for this to happen on Mother's day, it's the best Mother's Day in the world," Phyllis said.
The family is considering starting a non-profit to help other families battling insurance companies.
Maddie's parents plan to call the eye doctor Monday morning to schedule her surgery.
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