BELMAR, NJ — Molly and Brad Harrison welcomed their first child on June 5 — a healthy baby boy, Ryder Michael, weighing in at 8 pounds, 8 ounces after a speedy delivery. What should have been a time of joyful celebration for the new parents has been turned into a young mother's battle for life.

Less than 24 hours after delivery, Molly Harrison suffered a stroke due to a rare, life-threatening condition triggered by her pregnancy. It caused major swelling in her brain, requiring emergency neurosurgery to remove a portion of her skull. To help her brain heal, Molly was placed in a medically induced coma that also temporarily shut down some of her organs.  

Despite the severity of her condition, Molly has emerged successfully from the coma and is receiving specialized care in an inpatient rehabilitation center. While she is making progress in her recovery, she still faces many unknowns, struggles and challenges along the way, according to family and friends.

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As a way to help the Harrisons, a GoFundMe campaign has been launched to “ease some of the burden in her journey towards recovery,” according to the fund established by Meghan Lane Mattson, her cousin. Currently, the effort has raised some $45,000 in a month from nearly 500 contributors, surpassing its initial $35,000 goal.

And the Belmar community is wasting little time rallying behind the cause, particularly since the former Molly Ahern is known by many residents in this small borough. A longtime Belmar resident until recently moving with her husband to Wall, she was a Belmar Elementary School student, where she recently held a teaching position, and for nearly a decade, she has worked every summer as a Belmar beach employee — until this year because she was pregnant with her first child.

When she was younger, Molly also was a babysitter for many families in town, including Mayor Matthew Doherty and his wife, Maggie. “Molly is an amazing person going through a very difficult period. She was born and raised in Belmar, and worked on our beachfront for many years,” he said. “She now needs the community she loves so much to help her and her family. I hope people can be generous.”

Also looking to spread the word about the social media fundraising effort is Kevin O’Donnell, a Belmar Elementary School teacher, Belmar’s beachfront director— and most importantly, a friend of the young mother.

“Personally, Molly is very close to our family as she cared for our autistic son during his early years. She also is a beachfront co-supervisor with me,” he said. “While (the GoFundMe campaign) has reached its target, the family is going to need more than that, because this is extremely serious.”

On the GoFundMe page, Molly’s journey to recovery is detailed for those looking to help. After completing inpatient rehabilitation, she will need specialized outpatient care and medication upon returning home, as well as surgery on her skull, which now must be shielded with protective helmet when she’s out of bed.

“While we are all hopeful for a full recovery, we are unsure of many variables, including how long Molly will be in inpatient rehab, insurance coverage, and if Molly will be able to able to return to work, and/or take care of herself and Ryder when she does go home,’ read the campaign’s message.

As donations continue to come in, the effort’s organizers are grateful for the outpouring of support: “What an amazing network of support. This goes to show just how great Molly is.”


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