Audrey Lockstedt’s personality is a perfect fit for cheerleading.
“I thought I would be good at it because I kind of already am a peppy person,” said 16-year-old Audrey, who started cheering in the eighth grade.
It wasn’t just her personality that made Audrey a staple on the Sequoyah High School football cheerleading squad. Audrey, a junior, also has the leadership ability to get a crowd on its feet.
Audrey used that ability to lift her family up even when she was down.
“Audrey was stronger than the rest of us,” Kim Lockstedt, Audrey’s mom, said. “We all felt like we were falling apart and she picked us up. I felt guilty at times because she was stronger than all of us. I think she just felt like everything was going to be OK.”
A Mass on Her Brain
On June 17, 2011, Audrey and her older brother Evan fell asleep in the family media room. Early in the morning, Evan started hearing Audrey making strange sounds. She was having a seizure. Evan woke up their parents, John and Kim, and they drove Audrey to Scottish Rite hospital.
When she arrived, Audrey received a computed tomography (CT) scan. It came back normal, but their doctor told the family to follow up with a neurologist.
Audrey received an electroencephalogram (EEG) and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, both of which showed a mass on her brain. It wasn’t clear if the tumor was malignant or benign.
Joshua Chern, M.D., a pediatric neurosurgeon at Children’s, wanted to operate right away and remove the tumor.
“Dr. Chern is amazing,” Audrey said. “He would draw lots of pictures to explain where it was, what he was going to do and how he was going to fix it. That really helped me understand the whole process.”
On Aug. 24, 2011, Dr. Chern removed the tumor. Less than a week later, he called the family and told them that the tumor was benign. The relief the family felt was indescribable.
A Return to Cheering
Audrey had to sit out a couple of practices and games, including the homecoming game and parade, after the surgery. She returned to the team three weeks later. Her role was temporarily limited. She had to avoid doing any stunting, but she was just happy to be back with her team.
Eventually, Audrey was able to return to stunting, taking her position as a front spotter for her junior season on the varsity team.
While practicing a difficult stunt in October 2012, a teammate’s foot slipped and hit Audrey in the same spot that she had her surgery more than a year before. She fell to the ground and hit the back of her head.
“At first you kind of feel nothing,” Audrey said. “Then you open your eyes and you are in some strange place, which for me was the floor. Then the pain starts coming on. Then you feel really dizzy and nauseated.”
Kim picked Audrey up and they returned to Scottish Rite, where she received another CT scan and was diagnosed with a concussion.
“Of all the cheerleaders, she’s the one that gets hit in the head,” said Kim, who can smile about it months later.
The doctor that diagnosed Audrey gave her and her family guidelines on what she could and could not do while recovering. Audrey had to get a lot of rest, avoid strenuous brain activity and avoid looking at screens of any type–including TVs, computers and cellphones.
Audrey also took an ImPACT test after the concussion. She was able to compare that test to the baseline test she took before school started.
“There seemed to be a difference,” she said. “I would remember stuff less and have a hard time trying to figure out some things.”
Coming Back After Her Second Injury
Audrey had to miss another couple of weeks of games and practices, including another homecoming game and parade, after the concussion. She said it took her a few practices to get back to herself, but she kept working and finished the season.
“I did think about quitting because I didn’t want to risk getting hit again,” she said. “I did feel like I was behind and I didn’t want to be that burden. But quitting isn’t what I do.”
The close-knit Lockstedt family is closer than ever. Watching their youngest fight through waves of adversity provided them with enough inspiration to last countless football seasons.
“Seeing her push through and come out on the other side has been really wonderful,” Kim said. “It has been an inspiration not just to me, but to a lot of people.”