On Wednesday, April 10, David Pridemore had to make a decision. 

He had to decide whether to go to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to be with his 10-year-old daughter, Maddie, who is waiting for a heart transplant, or go to work so he can pay the family’s bills. 

Pridemore works for the U.S. Marshal Service, providing security at the U.S. District Courthouse in Pikeville. He worked as a police officer in Wheelwright last year and resigned that position after he was elected to serve as a constable in Johnson County. 

He worked this week in Pikeville because he’s used up nearly all of his vacation time since his daughter became ill.  

“I’ve burned up all of my time,” he said, explaining why he wasn’t at the hospital Wednesday with his daughter. “I’ve got a little bit of time left at my job, but I don’t have but maybe two days left and I’m not coming to work tomorrow or Friday. I’ll be up there with her then.” 

When asked how difficult it is to have to work when his daughter is so ill, Pridemore said, “I would rather be there with her. It’s a big adjustment, because you’ve got to juggle, you know, you want to be there with her, but at the same time, you have to pay the bills, too. Maddie has to have a house to come home to, when she gets well. That’s what I keep telling myself.”  

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for the family.

A little over two weeks ago, Maddie was diagnosed with strep throat. She was given antibiotics and was told to rest. Pridemore and his wife Nicki, however, wanted a second opinion, so they took their daughter to the emergency room at Highlands Health. 

They learned Maddie was in heart failure.

“She was born with a genetic heart defect that nobody ever caught. The way the doctors described it, her heart has been really overworked all her life, and it took this virus bringing it to the surface for the heart to say, okay I’m done. I can’t do no more,” Pridemore said.

Maddie was transported to the University of Kentucky Medical Center and later airlifted to Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital, where she’s been hospitalized ever since. 

“It has completely changed everything, a complete 360 turnaround,” Pridemore said. “You go from a child that is able to ride a bicycle four or five miles, and her 10 years old, to ride a skateboard, until now, she can’t even walk a half a foot without having to stop to take a break. She has to be assisted in going to the bathroom. She has to be assisted in taking a bath. It’s a big game changer for all of us.” 

He said his daughter “still has a very long road ahead of her.” On Thursday, April 11, doctors were scheduled to give Maddie an external ventricular assistance device to help her heart continue pumping. 

“They’re putting a pump on her and the pump only lasts a year. They have to find her a heart before the pump, I guess you would say, expires within a year. They have to find a heart before then, and if not, she won’t make it.” 

When asked how people can help Maddie and his family, Pridemore asked for prayers.

“Right now, our main concern is Maddie. She’s just slowly going downhill. She’s getting worse,” he said. 

Pam Caudill Tackett, a friend of the family, set up a gofundme account for Maddie called “Taking Donations for Maddie Pridemore.” 

Pridemore said staff at Maddie’s School, Flat Gap Elementary, have also been hosting fundraisers to help the family. She is a Dance Pup member at the school, he said, and was very active before she became ill. 

“It completely flips your world upside down,” Pridemore said. “It’s something you’re not even prepared for. The worst thing about it is you didn’t see it coming. It just hit you.”

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