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Gray’s Woods Elementary organizes Super Hero Day in honor of student’s little brother

Second-grader Makayla Raptosh leads her little brother Maddox through her classroom. The PTO at Gray's Woods Elementary organized Super Hero Day on Tuesday in honor of Maddox, who was born with an unknown condition that left a hole in his stomach and failing organs.
Second-grader Makayla Raptosh leads her little brother Maddox through her classroom. The PTO at Gray's Woods Elementary organized Super Hero Day on Tuesday in honor of Maddox, who was born with an unknown condition that left a hole in his stomach and failing organs. CDT photos

Erin DiPerna’s second-grade class has a different version of a superhero.

He can’t fly or become invisible, he doesn’t have X-ray vision, and you probably haven’t read about him in Marvel comics.

But the one thing 21-month-old Maddox Raptosh does have is super strength — the kind of strength you can’t build by lifting weights.

In less than two years, he has undergone “too many surgeries to count” and “hundreds of other medical procedures” for an unknown condition he was born with that left Maddox with a hole in his stomach and failing organs, his mother, Michele Raptosh, said.

He’s also the little brother of Gray’s Woods Elementary School student Makayla Raptosh, 8, whose class honored Maddox on Tuesday during National Superhero Day.

“A hero is different to everyone,” DiPerna said. “Makayla’s a strong kid that had to deal with a lot with Maddox. These things affect everyone differently, and she’s been a real trooper all year. … We’re glad to recognize him (Maddox) and allow students to recognize the superheroes in their lives.”

As a class project, students made capes out of red sheet paper and decorated them with the names and attributes of each student’s hero.

Eight-year-old Josh Sunday’s heroes were his two best friends, Finn and Noah. Classmate Alexis Stoudt wrote “Go Maddox” on her cape.

Earlier this month, the Parent Teacher Organization teamed up with the school to recognize Maddox, PTO board member Amy Schirf said.

“He was always called a superhero for what he’s been through,” Schirf said. “For people to come together to support him and the family is incredible.”

Maddox’s brother, Max, 4, is a preschooler at Grace Lutheran Preschool and Kindergarten, where Maddox was honored Tuesday, education director and a classroom teacher Cathy Smarkusky said.

Students at Gray’s Woods were encouraged to wear superhero T-shirts or capes. Some students also wore green — the official color that recognizes liver diseases.

After all, it was a liver transplant in October 2013 that saved Maddox’s life, Raptosh said.

Raptosh’s cousin, Christa Hassen, was a match and donated a portion of her liver to Maddox.

“He only had a day or two left,” Raptosh said. “He was failing fast, and at one point we weren’t sure if he was strong enough for the surgery, but they moved him up.”

Hassen said the surgery to remove part of her liver, which eventually grew back, took about five hours. The recovery time was about five days.

“I don’t look at it like I saved his life,” she said. “It was just something to help. I was healthy and was a good match for him, and just wanted to do it.”

Raptosh has a chain made of beads representing each of Maddox’s hospital visits and procedures, and she displayed it at Gray’s Woods and Grace Lutheran.

“He’s been through a lot and we’re glad to see him walking and smiling,” said Makayla, who had almost memorized her brother’s medical history, allergies and medications.

Next spring, Maddox will undergo surgery to close a hole in his abdomen, Raptosh said.

“He’s little but understands what he has to go through,” she said. “We were just at the hospital with my other son (Max), and Maddox walked in like it was his turn.”

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