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 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.
Eight-year-old Maddie 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 UI Children's
Hospital, Maddie left to begin inpatient
rehabilitation therapy. With ongoing physical
and occupational therapy back in Dubuque
and follow-up care at UI Children's Hospital,
Maddie continues to make great strides. Now
9, she's glad to be back home with Mom and
Dad and brother Ryan, 12.
She approaches each day with determination
and enthusiasm, says 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 UI 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
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."
Returning to Iowa City for the UI Homecoming
weekend is a long-standing Strauss
family tradition. Having Maddie serve as
Kid Captain makes this year's Homecoming
celebration extra special.
"Being a Kid Captain means that there's a
benefit from a stroke—that they think my story
is important to tell the world," says Maddie, an
active fourth-grader. "And to tell people who
think that strokes don't happen to kids that