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'Kloe's resilient': Lodge Grass teen playing in basketball tournament less than year after stroke

Kloe celebrates with team after close game.
Posted at 7:19 PM, Feb 28, 2024

BILLINGS — As Kloe Cummins goes up for a left-handed layup at the Southern B divisional basketball tournament, she thinks about a time when she couldn't even move her left hand after a stroke at 15 years old.

“I didn’t think I was going to be able to play basketball this year and that was pretty scary,” Kloe Cummins said on Wednesday at MetraPark.

Kloe Cummins

In August, the Lodge Grass teen started to feel unwell during her volleyball practice and drove herself 20 miles to Crow Agency to see a doctor. Her mother, Nicole Real Bird, remembers rushing to the hospital to meet her daughter there. Real Bird said Kloe couldn't even get out of her car on her own.

When her face started drooping, Kloe was rushed by ambulance to St. Vincent Regional Hospital for further help.

Kloe Cummins and Nicole Real Bird at St. Vincent Regional Hospital in August.
Kloe Cummins and Nicole Real Bird at St. Vincent Regional Hospital in August.

“My baby was lying there. She couldn’t talk, her arms weren’t moving. And I thought to myself, why?” Kloe's father, John Cummins said.

Dr. James Richards, the stroke director at St. Vincent, said that with Kloe being so young, a stroke was not the first thought for doctors.

Kloe Cummins at St. Vincent Regional Hospital in August after having a stroke.
Kloe Cummins at St. Vincent Regional Hospital in August after having a stroke.

“Was this some sort of migraine? Was this something else? You know, the kind of things you think about as opposed to a 65-year-old, stroke would probably be the first thing we think about with these symptoms, Kloe's case it was like, what is going on with this kid?” Richards said.

Kloe had further testing done while in the emergency room, and doctors discovered she had a stroke, almost eight hours after she started experiencing symptoms.

“She was found to have a total blockage of one of the arteries," Richards said.

Because of the amount of time that had passed and her age, a "clot buster" medication was out of the question. They decided to do a thrombectomy procedure, where doctors go through the groin with a wire and up into the brain to grab the clot. This procedure had been available for less than two years at St. Vincent when Kloe became the first pediatric thrombectomy at the hospital.

“Kloe’s resilient. She perseveres," Real Bird said.

Kloe Cummins celebrates from the sideline with her team.

Just three months after her stroke, Kloe was back doing something she loves: Playing basketball.

On Wednesday, the now 16-year-old started for her Lodge Grass team at the divisional basketball tournament.

Kloe Cummins is embraced by her mother Nicole Real Bird after a basketball game.

“When she goes out there, my heart is going to drop. Shed a few tears because I’m so happy for her because she’s come a long ways,” Real Bird said.

Kloe and her team won their first game, 55-50 against Shepherd.

Kloe, #32, sits on the bench for a break as her mother, Nicole Real Bird, sits in the stands watching the game.
Kloe, #32, sits on the bench for a break as her mother, Nicole Real Bird, sits in the stands watching the game.

“You know, she’s the number one player in my life,” her father said.

Kloe, a junior, plans to continue playing basketball in high school and, after her stay in the hospital, she now hopes to become a nurse or physical therapist to help others in her situation, especially young kids.