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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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She'll take life
By SCOTT PURKS
Published July 19, 2005
[Times photo: Scott Purks]
In therapy, Mallory Code works to keep her balance while walking on a 6-foot beam. It took four months of intensive therapy for her to make her way down the aisle for the wedding of her sister, Whitney (photo right), in June.
[Times photo: Scott Purks]
Above: At a University of South Florida rehabilitation center, Mallory struggles to drop a few dozen beans into a hot-sauce bottle.
Right: Mallory Code won four junior golf titles as a teen, then played for the University of Florida.
TAMPA - What a surreal thing it is to love life when life has been so brutal.
Mallory Code can barely walk, sleep, or pick up a dozen beans and drop them into a bottle. She hasn't eaten solid food in months. She hasn't relaxed for more than a few seconds because the nerves in her feet keep firing and, "They hurt soooo much ."
She'll take it, though, because five months ago she almost died in a Denver hospital, in bed on a feeding tube and a respirator, fighting Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome, pneumonia and a yeast infection in her blood stream.
Because of a tube running down her throat, she couldn't talk. Because of medications, she barely opened her eyes. Because of more than a dozen tubes running from her body, her arms were strapped down.
It was like that for weeks.
The crazy thing is that in one form or another, at various intensities, she has fought such illnesses for all her 20 years because she was born with cystic fibrosis, a disease that mutates into all sorts of problems and ends the lives of most people before they reach 35.
One of the biggest frustrations for Mallory Code is that she was born with more gifts than most.
As a teenager she won four American Junior Golf Association titles between 2000 and 2002, played for the 2002 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup team, and, with sister Whitney, helped Chamberlain High win state team titles in 1999 and 2000. She also played with Whitney at the University of Florida.
Along the way she often beat the likes of Paula Creamer (second youngest to win an LPGA title, which she did at age 18 in May at the Sybase Classic), Brittany Lang and Morgan Pressel (tied for second at this year's U.S. Women's Open), and, though there is an age gap, Michelle Wie (who missed the cut by a two shots July 8 at the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic).
Unlike those women, Code might have danced ballet as well as she played golf. She also could play Beethoven's Fifth on the piano and scored 1,340 on the SAT.
At a University of South Florida rehabilitation center Friday, her goal was to drop a few dozen beans into the hot-sauce bottle, walk 6 feet on a 2-by-4 without falling and toss 10 bean bags in succession more than 15 feet.
"Sometimes," she was asked, "do you ever get mad as hell?"
"Never," she said, and smiled. "You have to keep your sense of humor."
"What did you think when you watched those girls you beat fighting it out for the U.S. Open?"
"I have to admit I did wonder what might have been if I didn't (have CF). But really, it didn't make me sad. It just made me wonder."
"What about God? Do you ever wonder what he's thinking?"
"I never say, "Why me?' I took God into my heart when I was 7 years old and ever since then I've known that he has a plan and I know I'm part of that plan. Sometimes I say, "I don't like this!' But I always believe everything is going to be okay. Somehow I feel that this is all a blessing in disguise. ... It's not like I'm waiting to die. I'm not scared of it. Right now I'm just enjoying myself. I'm enjoying every second.
"Bottom line is that I love life."
* * *
Even when nurses tried to murder her by dripping poison in her IV, and another nurse kidnapped and harassed her in a hotel room, she never thought it would be better to be dead.
She fought even though she didn't know those were hallucinations.
"I couldn't do anything except pray to God," she said of the weeks of nightmares brought on by amnesia drugs so she wouldn't remember what was actually happening. "I wanted to scream so bad but the tube down my throat wouldn't allow it."
Still, she said she preferred hallucinations over reality.
Her few lucid memories include her sister-in-law, Paige, painting her toenails sparkly pink, and her brother, Jordan, using a book to try to communicate and her sister, Whitney, sleeping on the couch, and her parents, Brian and Karen, whispering in her ear.
And those few glimpses were all she needed.
Her family, with whom she had been homeschooled (to help keep the germ level down for Mallory), had always fought with her: through her teens when she had to swallow 40 pills a day to replace enzymes; while a mechanical vest beat her back and sides to loosen mucus from CF in her lungs; through the countless runs to the hospital to fight off lung infections; the more than 10 sinus surgeries to relieve headaches; and the attachment of the insulin pump for diabetes, which she wore on and off the golf course.
This time, she said she was going to fight extra hard because Whitney's wedding was on June 11.
She had four months to walk down the aisle.
The former scratch handicap not only gained back her strength (she lost almost 100 percent of her muscle mass in the hospital), but she had to learn again how to comb her hair and brush her teeth and how to sit up and swallow.
"My hand would no longer just go up and start combing my hair," she said. "My brain and my hands and legs were no longer connected. ... I remember one time I saw my mom walking with her legs bent, and I asked her, "Do people bend their knees when they walk?' She said, "Well yes, honey, of course.' I looked down and realized I had been walking stiff-legged.' I knew then I really had a lot of work to do to get back."
But she had to do it.
She was Whitney's maid of honor.
* * *
Mallory walked down the aisle and then sat in a chair on the stage next to the bride during the ceremony.
The pastor, Ken Whitten, a lifelong friend of the family, paused at one moment to talk about the best man and maid of honor, and before he started talking about Mallory, Brian Code leaned to his wife and said, "Oh, no, don't do it. Don't do it. If he does it he's going to take us all down like the Titanic. "
Whitten did it.
He spoke of what Mallory had overcome to sit in that chair on the stage.
"There wasn't a dry eye in the church," Karen said. "Everybody knew the story and everybody was overwhelmed. Finally, we got her to where she wanted to be."
At the reception, Mallory danced, albeit for about a minute, with her father.
Then she left a bit early and slept.
* * *
The goals now are right in front of her.
Drop two dozen beans in the jar within five minutes. Walk 30 seconds longer on the treadmill than the last time. Walk 7 feet on the 2-by-4 without falling.
And golf? Does she think somehow, some way, she can make it to the U.S. Women's Open and play against those contenders she used to beat?
"I can't think in those terms," she said, lying on a table with infrared wraps strapped all over her body to increase blood circulation. "I will say that if this is it for golf, then it's okay. I wouldn't trade my memories of playing and competing for anything. I've been so blessed with those memories. ...
"Right now my dream is to have a chipping contest with my dad. We used to have chipping contests all the time when I was younger. He told me not long ago that he had a chipping contest by himself. He said he played 18 of the toughest chipping holes you can imagine. He said he failed to get it up and down only six times. ... That made me kind of sad: My dad out there having a chipping contest with himself. See, I want to get out there again with him. I'd love to beat him in a chipping contest."
She grinned, seeming to feel extraordinary happiness at the thought.
"You know," she said. "I would really, really love that."