Stroke group just for youth

Wanaka-based Young Stroke Thrivers Foundation founder Maria Fredatovich (right, 32) and...
Wanaka-based Young Stroke Thrivers Foundation founder Maria Fredatovich (right, 32) and foundation ambassador Kylie Pilkinton (13), who both had strokes some years ago, give each other a high five with their ''not-so-good'' stroke-affected hands. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Thrivers, rather than survivors, is how Wanaka woman Maria Fredatovich wants herself and other young people recovering from strokes to be described.

''We wanted to get away from survivors because it sort of gives that impression of we're victims,'' she explains.

Ms Fredatovich (32), who still experiences the effects of a stroke she had at age 13, has formed the Young Stroke Thrivers Foundation, which aims to support children and teenagers who have had a stroke and teach them there are no limits to what they can achieve.

Ongoing balance and hand-eye co-ordination problems and no peripheral vision on her right side, all as a result of her stroke, have not prevented Ms Fredatovich from living life to the full and taking part in a wide range of physical challenges, which is the message she is setting out to convey to others like her.

Her efforts began in 2013 when she and a support crew hiked the 58km Gillespie Pass circuit near Makarora to raise money for a skiing holiday for Auckland teenager McKenzie Kerr-Bell, who had a stroke at the age of 12.

The foundation aims to raise awareness around strokes in young people and provide sport and recreation opportunities to those directly affected. The first activities programme will run in March in Auckland and will include sailing, rock-climbing, tennis and skiing at Snowplanet.

''It's quite a lonesome world being so young and having something that changes your life and is very different and quite rare ... so I think getting out and about and doing things - it improves your confidence,'' Ms Fredatovich said.

Among those she has connected with through her still fledgling foundation is 13-year-old Kylie Pilkinton, who until recently also lived in Wanaka.

Kylie had a stroke at just 3 days old that affected the left side of her body. However, she too leads an active life, which includes dancing, performing arts and sports, and has recently become an ambassador for the foundation, featuring on its soon-to-be-launched promotional material.

Ms Fredatovich's foundation was ''awesome'', Kylie said.

''Taking people like us and letting them have the possibility to do things is just amazing.''

Ms Fredatovich said support networks for young stroke sufferers and their families had long been lacking in New Zealand, as there were so few cases, and there was a common misconception that young people were immune.

The foundation's board consists of Ms Fredatovich's Auckland-based mother, Monique Fredatovich; Michael Sidey, of Wanaka; and Stephen Earlly, of Auckland.

Its official launch will be held in Auckland in July next year.

-lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz

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