VALHALLA, N.Y. – A 9-year-old Rockland County girl is on the mend after she suffered a stroke in October while playing soccer.
Mae Cunningham was 8 years old when it happened, and her mother, Keri Cunningham, says the day started like any other Sunday morning. They were getting ready to head to the soccer field. Mae was running up and down during the game and playing well.
“All of a sudden, I just noticed that her foot started to drag,” Keri said. “We kept on asking her, ‘What’s wrong? What’s wrong? Does it hurt?’ and she was just kind of blank. She couldn’t really respond.”
Mae was rushed to the hospital, where doctors said she suffered a right-sided stroke on the field. However, they still haven’t figured out the underlying cause.
“When you’re told that she may never talk [or] utilize her right side, you’re devastated, right?” Keri said. “This is your child. You want the best for them.”
Mae has no underlying health conditions, which has made this process even more confusing and painful for her parents, but because of her tough spirit, she has made great progress over the last few months.
Dr. Divya Lakhaney is a physician at Blythedale Children’s Hospital and oversees Mae’s progress.
“She’s starting to walk more independently with more confidence,” Dr. Lakhaney said. “Her speech is improving. She’s really just making tremendous gains.”
Mae spent months staying in the hospital but recently transitioned as an outpatient under the Robert Day Hospital program at Blythedale, which provides her with the physical, occupational, and speech therapies she needs while still being able to go home at night to her family and her dog Cookie.
Mae has remained a happy and outgoing young girl throughout these intensive therapies and is making great improvements.
The hospital also has the added benefit of a school program to help ease the transition when it’s time to return to her former school.
Brendan Cunningham is her father and is fascinated by her achievements.
“It’s been an incredible journey just watching her regaining her ability to walk, to use her right arm, and her speech,” Brendan said. “The most incredible thing is, every day, she does things that amaze us.”
On Sunday, the family will participate in a Penguin Plunge, a cold plunge in the Hudson River at Memorial Park in Nyack that will raise money for seriously ill children.
As to whether Mae will be jumping in?
“No!” Mae said. “Feet in!”