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Young Women Reclaim Lives after Stroke

Updates on Blake Ephraim, Madeline Mudd and Molly Ogden following their strokes

Stroke doesn’t discriminate, as three young women – active, healthy and just 16 at the time their strokes occurred – can attest. Blake, Madeline and Molly brought inspiring determination to their efforts to survive and thrive after stroke. Several years ago, we shared their stories after they received care at The University of Kansas Health System. We visited with them recently to discover where their lives took them next.

Blake EphraimBlake

Once Blake Ephraim was stabilized following her stroke, she said, “Quitting was never an option.” And she hasn’t.

After inpatient rehabilitation in Nebraska, Blake returned to Olathe High School. A supportive teacher helped her rebuild her reading skills, battling from a 4th grade level to a normal level for her age group by the end of her junior year. She balanced “being different” – taking classes to help her graduate on time – with “being Blake” – behaving like any other bubbly, high-school cheerleader.

In May 2015, Blake earned her high school diploma alongside her classmates and headed to Pittsburg State University with the goal to become a neuro ICU nurse. While her first semester went well, her second proved a bit too challenging given the residual effects of her stroke. When her family moved to South Carolina, Blake took a break to regroup and discovered a new passion. Working with children at Primrose Daycare inspired Blake to study occupational therapy. Her family moved once again – this time to Arizona – and Blake enrolled at Pima Medical Institute to become an occupational therapy assistant. She is eager to share her personal experience and compassion for others as she helps patients relearn crucial life skills after health crises.

Blake’s recovery exemplifies the combination of medical care from skilled experts, prayers, love and support from family and friends, and her own strength and determination to rebuild her life after stroke. She has developed friendships with other teenage stroke survivors – including Madeline and Molly – from Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Arkansas and Canada. She shares her story with everyone she meets to help promote stroke awareness.

Madeline MuddMadeline

Competitive figure skater Madeline Mudd has made tremendous strides in her recovery, but has more to accomplish before she’ll be able to live on her own one day. She struggles with short-term memory, but is adapting and making progress. She has learned to rely on her calendar, reminders, timers and a large white board in her room to keep organized.

Madeline takes one or two classes at Maple Woods Community College each semester. She studies twice as hard as other students, but is learning. She wants to work with animals one day and dreams of owning a cat café, where drinking coffee and petting cats would feature prominently.

She also has discovered a new calling as a skating coach. Madeline had hung up her skates after her stroke, with memory challenges affecting her ability to perform a program. But then the skate director at the Independence Community Ice Rink offered her a job as a “Learn to Skate” coach. She is a natural, and the experience gave her the confidence to re-enroll in skating lessons herself. She is again working with her own coach at the Mudds’ local rink.

Madeline can drive and enjoys the independence driving brings. She has the same great attitude and funny sense of humor she always brought to everything she did. In fact, her determination and strength earned her an impressive honor from U.S. Figure Skating: She was named one of the organization’s Get Up® heroes for embodying a spirit that may fall, but won’t stay down.

Molly OgdenMolly

Molly Ogden fought back from her stroke to graduate on time with her high school class in May 2015. She continued on to Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas. Her family decided to move to central Oklahoma to expand their cattle operation and help her brother pursue his dream of participating in rodeos. The move brought positive changes for Molly, too.

The family joined a new church, where Molly volunteers in a youth after-school program. She also volunteers at Cargo Ranch, a nonprofit organization that seeks to meet the physical and spiritual needs of area children. Molly continues speech, occupational and physical therapies in formal settings and on her own. She takes part in a support group for aphasia – a language disorder that can be caused by stroke – and volunteers there, too.

Molly attended Oklahoma State University’s Cowboy Aphasia Camp last summer and plans to return. Thanks to an adapted accelerator pedal for the family car, she’s begun driving again, an accomplishment she relishes for the freedom it makes possible. She drives herself to volunteer opportunities and the gym almost every day.

Even though her life changed dramatically when her stroke occurred, Molly has remained positive and happy. She advocates for stroke awareness, especially among young people.