Growing Up Little


Maddie Harrell, 7, was born with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism. Because of her condition, Maddie has experienced complications, such as brain stem decompression, which required a few surgeries and has left her with a more sensitive than normal neck. She struggles with central and obstructive apnea, requiring her to sleep with an apnea monitor every evening. Despite the things that make her different, Maddie is in many ways just like any other girl her age.

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Maddie Harrell stretches at the start of her ballet class at Brindusa-Moore Ballet Academy in Pocatello. Maddie has more limited flexibility than others her age, due to being a little person.

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In front of her second grade class at Ellis Elementary, Maddie stands with her parents, Becci and Jim, as they give a demonstration involving two different sized presents that contain the same thing. The goal of the activity, according to the Harrell’s, is to educate both kids and adults about differences and about Maddie being a little person. While they started just with Maddie’s class, the Harrell’s now talk to all the students at Ellis.

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Maddie laughs while making a few mistakes during a piano lesson from Melissa Mercogliano, left, as her brother, Parker, right warms up for his lesson. Maddie said playing the piano is difficult for her and not necessarily one of her favorite activities.

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Scanning the skies for ducks, Maddie covers her ears to muffle the sound of Gil Judkins’ shotgun while on her first hunting trip. Maddie and her father, Jim, accompanied family friend Judkins and his daughter, Lori, for an afternoon of hunting. While only Gil wielded the gun, Maddie carried around and the investigated the downed ducks.

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Maddie and Lori Judkins keep an eye out for ducks while on a hunting trip with their dads at the Fort Hall bottoms.

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Becci puts some makeup on Maddie in a hallway at Frazier Hall before “The Nutcracker” ballet, as toy soldier Julia Phelps, 9, watches. Maddie said she likes wearing makeup, and her favorite part of her cherub costume is the wings.

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Maddie performs onstage at Frazier Hall during “The Nutcracker” ballet.
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Becci helps Maddie put on an apnea monitor she has to wear every night while sleeping. Since shortly after birth, Maddie has struggled with both central and obstructive apnea and has had to wear a variety of devices to help her breathe.

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The approximately four-inch scar on the back of Maddie’s neck is the result of a surgery for brain stem decompression she had in December 2006. Maddie had surgery when she was six-weeks-old to remove a bone pushing against her spinal cord, but a year later scar tissue grew back. The Harrell’s were able to postpone another surgery until the one in December.

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Maddie plays with friends during recess at her school, Ellis Elementary. Maddie is often reminded that with her fragile neck she has to be more careful when playing, and she can’t do things like jump on a trampoline.

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Maddie watches TV with brother, Parker, at their home in Chubbuck.

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Jim Harrell hugs Maddie goodnight before she goes upstairs to sleep for the night. “Honestly she’s no different than any other kid. She’s just in a smaller package,” Jim, a former principal, said.

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