Through the support of friends, family, and the sport she loves, Maddie Baker persevered through her life-changing injury.

MSJ female student outside smiling

Life can change in a flash. Worlds collide, tides shift, stars explode. For MSJ freshman Maddie Baker ‘25, that moment occurred on the ninth hole of her final round of high school golf.

Just as she teed off, she collapsed onto the grass, her back in “excruciating pain,” says Maddie. She could barely walk, but willed herself to complete her final round, for herself and her team. Her passion for the sport she grew up with combined with her compassion for others helped get her through the final, painful round of her high school career.

As a result of her injury on the course, Maddie would be faced with chronic back pain for a year and a half before she would receive medical clearance. Being taken away from the sport and community she loved was heartbreaking—however, with the help and support of those around her, Maddie’s physical and emotional pain grew smaller and smaller over the years.

The Power of Support

Growing up surrounded by two passionate golfers—her grandpa and uncle—made it easy for Maddie to fall in love with the sport. Of course, she still had much to learn. “It was frustrating at first when I struggled to hit the ball well,” she reflects. “But the fact that one shot can change your entire mood is what made me come back to the course.”

Maddie also met one of her best friends through golfing, who was there for her “through the highs and lows of the game,” she says. “She was always able to make me laugh on the course.”

Through the love of her family and friends, Maddie’s hobby turned into a passion. And after that was put on pause by her injury, the desire to golf only flourished; we always want what we cannot have.

It’s in His Hands

When Maddie stepped on Mount St. Joseph University’s campus for the first time, “it felt like home.” An Exercise Science major, she had to work hard to keep up with all her assignments and requirements as a new student.

However, after her first surgery, she was nearly three weeks behind on classwork. “I was worried about all of the material I was missing in all of my classes and when and how soon I would be able to get caught back up on everything that I missed.” The toll of not only being in pain, but also having to mentally exert yourself took a lot of energy and happiness from her.

However, Maddie was never alone in her pain.

During one of her many long nights doing schoolwork, Maddie’s dad came and talked to her. “He told me how proud of me he was for everything that I had pushed through this past year. He told me how he does not know many other people that would be able to keep a positive attitude through everything that I was going through.”

Throughout all of her recovery, Maddie’s dad never gave up on her. He was there to encourage her for every exam, every doctor’s appointment, and both of her surgeries. “Every time I had a breakdown and felt like there was never a solution to end this pain, he would give me a big bear hug and tell me how he would do anything to get me out of this pain, no matter how long it took, he was willing to do anything and go anywhere to make my life better.”

It is also thanks to her dad that Maddie’s faith grew stronger. “My dad always reminded me that God has a plan for me, even though I may not be able to see what that plain is right now in the moments of hardship and struggle,” she says. “I just have to keep faith in Him and trust that He will lead me to what I truly need in life.”

The Call that Changed Everything

“I had a telephone call with my doctor six weeks after my second surgery to check in and see how I was doing,” says Maddie, “and when I told him I had little to no pain since the surgery he was ecstatic to hear that I was finally pain free after a year and a half.” This call would lift all the restrictions on what Maddie could and couldn’t do; she could finally get back to the reality she had longed for.

“To me, being able to ease back into my routine again meant that I had finally gotten my life back.”

It would still take time until she was able to get back on the golf course, but receiving medical clearance from her doctor was the first step at getting back to her life before the injury. Maddie says that she “never realized how hard it was to live with this chronic pain, until I didn’t have to live with it anymore.”

Giving Back

After hearing from guest speaker, Dr. Erin Sizemore, in a class her freshman year, Maddie switched her major to Speech Language & and Hearing Sciences. “I was fascinated by the fact that there were so many environments that I could work in and the different people that I would be able to help after graduate school,” says Maddie.

Once she completes her 3+2 program (three years of undergraduate, plus two years of graduate to complete a master’s degree), she’s looking forward to being able “to work with the people I want and the environment I want.”

The experience of her injury and her dad’s subsequent support helped Maddie to find her calling in life: helping others.

“Throughout life we all will go through these super highs and really deep and dark lows,” says Maddie. “But you have to remember that there is always a way out of the hole that you are in.”

About our Speech Language & Hearing Sciences

Interested in speech-language pathology or audiology? Our program offers students with the scientific knowledge to pursue a multitude of careers, from elementary schools to intensive care units.

Check out our Speech Language & Hearing Sciences page to learn more!