When Maddie Strauss became sick in April 2009, her parents, Lori and Bill, assumed it was just a virus. But after a week, Maddie was having headaches, weakness in her arms and legs, and speech difficulties.
Concerned that she wasn't getting better, Lori and Bill brought Maddie from their home in Dubuque to University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where pediatric neurologists assessed her condition. Tests revealed that she had tearing in both carotid arteries, interrupting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to her brain.
Maddie, who was eight at the time, had suffered a severe stroke, affecting both sides of her brain.
"We were stunned," Lori says, "but we were comforted by all the professionals who were doing everything they could to care for her and keep us informed."
Maddie was transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, and the next several days were critical, as the swelling in her brain continued. Maddie's medical team considered surgery, but ultimately decided that treatment and close monitoring posed fewer risks.
That decision paid off, as her swelling finally subsided. After several more days of improvement, she was transferred to the pediatric inpatient unit for continued observation. After nearly two weeks at Ul Children's Hospital, Maddie left to begin inpatient rehabilitation therapy. With ongoing physical and occupational therapy back in Dubuque and follow-up care at Ul Children's Hospital, Maddie continues to make great strides.
She approaches each day with determination and enthusiasm, say her parents.
"I still remember the time when she came home and said, 'Hey Dad, check it out-I can tie my shoe!"' Bill says. "The level of pride she had on her face was really something."
"She can ride her bike now, which is really great for her," Lori adds. "She's so proud of that."
The Strausses beam when discussing Maddie’s progress. They marvel at the care she received at Ul Children's Hospital.
"From the moment we arrived, it was the most comprehensive care possible," Bill says. "We didn't have to ask for anyone to do anything above and beyond-they just did it. The level of resources and experts available to determine the best approach was phenomenal."
The family hopes Maddie's story helps inform others about children and stroke. "It's not common, but it does happen, and it's often missed," Lori says. "We want to make people aware so they can get the medical help they need, and quickly. ‘Time is brain' when it comes to treating stroke."