Madison Ricci, a 19-year-old student at the University of Tampa, plans to be a physician assistant someday. But first she has to get a new liver.

This seemingly daunting road bump does not deter the positive young woman.

“Her attitude,” said her father, Todd Ricci, a Milford firefighter, “has been ‘get this thing out of me so I can move on’.”

Madison hopes to receive a liver transplant soon, and friends, family and local firefighters packed Stonebridge Restaurant in downtown Milford Sunday for a fundraiser to help offset medical and related costs.

“At the tender age of 12, our daughter Madison Ricci was diagnosed with Lupus,” Madison’s mother, Kristine, explains on the Miracle for Maddie Facebook page. “She had an enlarged spleen (splenomegaly), very low platelets and was severely anemic.”

Madison was prescribed multiple medications, including Prednisone, with the hopes of decreasing the inflammation in her body and increasing her platelet count.

Despite the high doses of medication, Madison’s spleen continued to enlarge and her organs were still at risk as she entered Hamden High School. She had played soccer and ice hockey, but couldn’t anymore due to the risk of injury. But she persevered and tried out for the cheerleading team, eventually becoming captain and being selected as an All American Cheerleader.

But still, her health wasn’t improving.

“In January 2017, during the home stretch of Madison’s senior year in high school, we were narrowing down college selections when we received alarming blood work results,” her mother wrote on Facebook. “Her liver enzymes had risen to a dangerous level. We were sent to a liver specialist ... who immediately admitted her. After two liver biopsies and several tests with body scans, she [was] diagnosed with Autoimmune Hepatitis with Severe Cirrhosis, Portal Hypertension, Esophageal Varicose and Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis. Madison, who was barely 18 years old, was going to need a liver transplant and was immediately added to the liver transplant list.”

In March, while home on spring break from the University of Tampa, where she is majoring in pre med biology, Madison appeared jaundiced. She was experiencing ascites (fluid retention) and her ammonia levels were rising in her blood, her mother said. Her physicians told Todd and Kristine that it was time to look for a living donor to offer Madison a piece of their liver and give her the best chance for survival.

So the rather private family went public and encouraged people to sign up to be living donors. Kristine said that a person can donate a piece of their liver and in six to eight weeks, both pieces will regrow and regenerate to just about the original size.

Madison’s cousin Brooke Bauer, who organized Sunday’s fundraiser along with Allie Bauer, and firefighters Brandon Edo and Jeff Luciano, said the family is hoping to get good news this week — hoping that one of the many people who signed up to be tested will prove a match for Madison and she will receive her liver transplant.

“She’s the sweetest person,” Brooke said. “She’s funny, and she’s had such a positive outlook on this whole experience.”

Kristine agreed that her daughter has a rare outlook. “Maddie is the most positive, optimistic person you will ever meet,” Kristine said.

There are fundraisers planned Tuesday (June 12) at the Dairy Queen in North Haven, 59 Washington Ave., from 5 to 8 pm., and a special spinning class at SoulCycle in Westport June 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Todd Ricci, a Milford firefighter for 26 years, said he is overwhelmed by the fire department and the Milford community for all the support.

He said one local resident who signed up to be tested as a match for Madison was not a match, but turned out to be a match for a baby that needed a liver transplant. That transplant has since taken place.

While the family is hoping a match will be identified for Madison this week, people can still be tested to be living donors, to help Madison or someone else in need.

To be tested, people can contact the Yale New Haven Transplant Center at 866-925-3897