Campus: CSU, San Francisco -- April 26, 2001
Brain Power: The Will To Live
San Francisco student overcomes severe brain surgery to pioneer disabilities
It took more than a brain surgeon to save Linda Madison's life.
Before undergoing a 17-hour brain surgery 10 years ago, Madison's doctors
told her she wouldn't survive. Yet her strength, dedication, passion
and drive enabled her not only to survive, but also to thrive as a crusader
for the rights of the disabled and an educator of others on issues facing
the disabled population.
While a student at San Francisco State University - where Madison will
graduate with a bachelor's degree in social work May 26 - she established
the Disability Education, Action and Representation (DEAR) program,
which provides mentoring for disabled students and faculty-student conflict
resolution as well as class presentations to promote better awareness
"Linda has obviously faced a great deal of adversity, and through
adversity comes strength," said SFSU Disability Programs Coordinator
Don Brown, who has worked extensively with Madison on campus compliance
issues regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). "She
has spirit, energy and drive, and I believe she will be immensely successful."
A single mother of four grown children and three grandchildren, Madison,
53, said the bond of her family helped her recover so well from the
brain surgery. To this day, Madison is deaf in her right ear, only hearing
a constant loud ringing in that ear. But this only helps ignite her
"Disability can be used as empowerment - a way to grow, reach out
and find your place in this world," Madison said.
Her true dedication to help the disabled and educate others on disabilities
has translated well into her powerful class presentations, which have
touched many SFSU students.
"There is a hunger for able-bodied students to learn about disabilities.
When it came time for students to share, some cried," she said.
"I heard and saw things that made me know how badly needed this
Recently, Madison was one of 21 California State University students
to win the STARS (Students That Are Recognized for Service) award, acknowledging
her efforts with DEAR as well as her volunteer work with the Bay Area
Homelessness Program and efforts to ensure SFSU complies with regulations
of the ADA.
Later this year, Madison will publish her autobiography, "Under
the Weeping Willow Tree" (Bawn Publishing).
"Writing this book was a true healing experience," she said.
"I had to go through my life all over again and relive situations
that at one time I thought were hopeless."
Among those seemingly hopeless situations include some sad news she
received along the road to her recovery. Shortly after the surgery,
Madison's son Phillip was diagnosed with schizophrenia - a psychotic
disorder characterized by illogical thinking patterns, delusions, hallucinations
and often accompanied by other emotional, behavioral or rational disturbances.
Thanks to Madison's constant support, understanding and love, she said
Phillip is able to lead a somewhat "normal" life.
"The health department can't believe he's so high-functioning,"
said Madison, who talks to him weekly over the phone. "I believe
it's because of the communication and love of our family. He drives,
works and surfs - but only because I've stayed on top of everything
in his life."
After Madison recovered from the surgery, she felt the need to help
others in similar situations. She founded and led the Central Coast
Impairment Management Program, a Monterey-based nonprofit organization
that provides support for brain-injured survivors and their families.
Madison will enter the graduate program in social work at CSU Fresno
this fall. She plans to establish a DEAR program on campus and at area
high schools, creating what she calls a "circle of acceptance"
for those with disabilities.
"I believe that when students accept themselves for who they are,
then they can accept others for their uniqueness," Madison said.