Strand Notebook | Fundraiser planned for 4-year-old stroke survivor

Claire Gilley, 4, had a stroke on July 22. A fundraiser is being held to help raise money to cover her medical costs.
Claire Gilley, 4, had a stroke on July 22. A fundraiser is being held to help raise money to cover her medical costs. Courtesy photo

Claire Gilley turned 4 years old on May 25. On July 22, when she woke up from her nap, she couldn’t walk or speak plainly. Unable to use her right side, she “pretty much” crawled to her mother, Heather Ray.

Heather couldn’t believe what she was seeing and hearing.

“I’m a nurse and when I saw the symptoms, I knew they were stroke symptoms, but I second-guessed myself,” Ray said. “If she were 60, 70, 80, it would be one thing, but who would think that their child at 4 is having a stroke?”

Ray has been a registered nurse a little longer than a year and worked at McLeod’s Hospital in Florence before moving to Horry County and working at Conway Medical Center for about three weeks.

She rushed Claire to Conway Medical Center, but she was soon sent by helicopter to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, where the stroke was diagnosed.

Ray said he doctors have tried to find out why Claire had the stroke, but so far, they don’t know.

After some time at MUSC, Claire was sent to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, N.C., where she received rehabilitation before coming home on Aug. 13.

Claire wears a brace on her foot and ankle and another on her arm. Her speech has gotten much better.

“That’s the best thing that’s come back,” Ray said. Claire knows everything she knew before the stroke and has the same personality, but she gets frustrated very easily.

She has to go to speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy at Myrtle Beach, and to doctors in Conway, Charleston and Charlotte.

Strokes in children may not be as rare as she thought, Ray said, because when she went to check out a school for Claire, there was another child there who had suffered one.

Ray’s main reason for sharing Claire’s story is to let as many parents as possible know that children can and do have strokes.

Since she has not been able to work, and had not worked in Conway long enough to receive any benefits, her friends have seen that she needs some financial help and are stepping up.

“It’s amazing. It has given me a whole new insight into the kindness that people have. It’s incredible,” Ray said.

Matt Savage and his wife, Sage, are planning a chicken bog fundraiser for Claire on Sept. 4 at Pleasant Union Baptist Church from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lucas Carroll is cooking. A plate of chicken bog, green beans and bread is $7. Matt works for Horry Electric Cooperative, and Sage teaches cosmetology at Horry-Georgetown Technical College.

They need people to help with the fundraiser in various ways, including deliveries, since they are offering to deliver orders of five or more dinners.

Pleasant Union Baptist Church is at 2940 Minnick Road, Aynor. Call Matt Savage at 855-7833, Sage Savage at 855-8802 or Heather Ray at 655-2399. Donations may be made at

Contact PEGGY MISHOE at or 365-3885.

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