WILLOWICK, Ohio (WJW) — The community is lifting up a city police officer, a 27-year-old woman who suffered a stroke just two days before she was going to get married.

Maddie Orton is “the funniest, most kind-hearted person” to her future sister-in-law, Jenna Smith. Wedding bells for Orton — a Willowick police officer — and her fiancé Cory Smith — a Mentor police officer — were planned for Friday, Sept. 15.

But it was during a shopping trip with her mother the prior Wednesday, Sept. 13, when she started exhibiting symptoms of a stroke — signs that were immediately clear to her mother, who is a nurse, Jenna said.

“They are still not quite sure what caused the stroke,” Jenna said. “They expect because she’s so young, she will be OK. She does have a long road ahead. She’ll be in the hospital for a while.”

Orton has already had two surgeries and is still in an intensive care unit in critical but stable condition, Jenna said.

Her family is also expecting expensive medical bills. The Maddie Strong Fundraiser dinner, with raffles, auctions and more, is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Oct. 21 at the Willoughby Eagles Aerie, 37299 Euclid Ave., Willoughby. Tickets are $20. All proceeds will help the family cover her medical costs.

Orton and her fiancé, a former marine, met at the police training academy, where they sparred with each other during defense training.

They’ve been dating for five years and have two Labrador retrievers, Rosie and Bravo. He backs the Browns, while she wears the Steelers’ black-and-gold — and they “love their rivalry,” said Jenna. Since the stroke, he has been “her rock,” she said.

Orton joined the Willowick Police Department three years ago, with aims of becoming a detective someday, said Jenna.

“Maddie is a ray of sunshine who lights up any room she walks in with her fun loving and humorous personality,” reads a statement from her fiancé Cory and her family on the police department’s Facebook page. “We continue to ask for your prayers of support, love, strength and healing as she continues her journey towards recovery.”

The Lake County Treasurer’s Office has also organized its own fundraiser for Orton at Revolution Pizza, which has locations in Willowick and Mentor.

The pizza shop plans to donate 30% of all sales on Saturday, Oct. 7, to Orton’s medical fund, according to a news release from county Treasurer Michael Zuren. Well-wishers can also leave a “get well” card for her at the pizza shop, according to the release.

What are the signs of a stroke?

Strokes happen when there’s a problem with blood flow to the brain — either from a lack of blood or from brain bleeding, according to a news release from the Cleveland Clinic in May, which is National Stroke Awareness Month.

Doctors are now seeing more young adults suffering from premature hardening and blockages in blood vessels, according to the release. Other stroke risk factors include clotting disorders, structural heart disease or other blood vessel disorders.

“No age group is immune to having strokes, and we’re surprisingly seeing a significant rise in strokes in young adults,” local neurologist Dr. Abbas Kharal is quoted in the release.

Kharal recommends remembering the acronym “FAST” to recognize some of the common signs of a stroke, then act with urgency:

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Time to call 911

If treatment is delayed, strokes can cause permanent brain damage or death, according to the Clinic.