Erica Thayer   |   May 12, 2020

First Miss America Contestant with CHD


Beauty Inside and Out

“I was the first woman with a congenital heart defect and sternotomy scars to step on the Miss America stage and I am so proud of that.”

Madeline Collins was born with Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF). She’s had multiple open heart surgeries and medical interventions during life. Still, she survived and even thrived throughout every obstacle she was thrown. She has gone on to represent heart warriors in the national spotlight by competing in the 2019 Miss America pageant representing her state as Miss West Virginia.

Selfless Heart

“I was aware that competing at Miss WV with my condition and scars was different, but I never spent much time debating it. Once I won and my story began to get out, I was able to see the impact it had on the CHD community. My win was less about me and more about the other little girls looking up at me. I hope that I simply set a precedent for all types of women, not just those with heart conditions, to go and do it all!” Madeline said.

During her time as Miss West Virginia she had the honor of visiting a Heart Camp for Kids. She spoke about embracing scars and that despite CHD, anyone can still achieve their dreams. She is an inspiration to many and is a true testament of never giving up.

Dancing and Disney

Madeline also has a passion for dancing. “There is something about making people in an audience happy or joyful that serves as my own source of pleasure.” She gets to couple her love of dance with another love she’s had since childhood, Disney. “When I was little and very sick, my mom would use the Disney store as a way to distract and reward good behavior during procedures.” She now performs seasonally at Walt Disney World. She is currently pursuing a Master of Social Work at Columbia University. After graduation, she hopes to work as a child life specialist in a children’s hospital — “serving kiddos just like me!”

Lifelong Care

Madeline has accomplished much in life and she still has so much to offer. However, she is not cured of her CHD. She still sees her cardiologist once or twice a year to monitor her heart. She also expects to undergo her fourth open heart surgery in the next couple of years. “Unfortunately, this level of care and procedures will occur routinely for the rest of my life.”

There is currently no cure for CHD. Help us find one so that those born with CHD can live a life without worry of the next surgery or check up.  Help us grow a heart.

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