Help for young stroke survivors

18:45, Jan 09 2013
Maria Fredatovich
CONQUERING MOUNTAINS: Wanaka-based Maria Fredatovich, who suffered a stroke at the age of 13, is campaigning to help other young stroke survivors lead active lives.

Wanaka-based Maria Fredatovich says a lack of support for young stroke survivors is behind her efforts to set up a charity to help them lead active lives.

Ms Fredatovich was just 13 when she suffered a stroke.

Seventeen years on she has learned to ski, has travelled the world and has gained qualifications in spatial design.

Originally from West Auckland, she moved to Wanaka nearly a year ago and has now taken up kite-surfing and hiking.

She also spends a lot of time on her mountain bike. It is her main form of transport because she is unable to drive.

Meeting a 12-year-old stroke survivor in Auckland a few months ago rekindled memories of how tough the experience was.


"At that age I was quite overwhelmed and just wanted to be normal again, which you think there is such a thing at that age, " Ms Fredatovich said.

"It takes a lot of motivation . . . to simply lift your wrist, then progress to picking something up, cutting with a knife and fork and tying your shoelaces."

Ms Fredatovich said she was fundraising for McKenzie Kerrbell and her parents to come to Wanaka for a holiday next winter.

She wanted McKenzie, who was able to walk with the aid of a splint, to learn to ski or snowboard through Adaptive Snowsports New Zealand lessons - something she wished she had done after her stroke.

"I spent too long in the gym. I wish I'd given other sports a go."

She said stroke survivors benefited from one-on-one lessons, but they were expensive. She had also been fundraising for the Kerrbell family's flights, car rental and accommodation.

Ms Fredatovich wants to take her appeal further and form a charity for young stroke survivors, including a scholarship to help them take sports or crafts lessons.

She would also like to raise awareness that strokes do not just happen to older people.

She said 75 per cent of stroke sufferers were over the age of 65 and were therefore the Stroke Foundation's focus, but rehabilitation was particularly important for young stroke survivors who had their whole life ahead.

The Southland Times