Pediatric Stroke Warriors, a group that I follow on Facebook, shared this video recently to heighten awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke in a child:
Unfortunately, for our family, this is not new information. My eight-year-old son, Jude*, was a full-term baby, delivered with the umbilical cord around his neck. He was lethargic and his face was gray. After a few deep breaths, he regained his color and appeared fine, but a few hours later, began experiencing focal seizures. He was jerking his right arm, from the shoulder down, in a rhythmic manner which I recognized was not normal for a newborn. I called the nurse, who rushed him to the neonatal intensive care unit, where they performed both a spinal tap and an MRI before he was twenty-four hours old. The MRI found the cause of the seizures – he had suffered a stroke on the left side of his brain.
At the time, we did not know what his prognosis would be. The doctors told us that newborn stroke patients fare better than adults because their brain is still developing, and other areas of the brain might take over functions of the part that was damaged. As it turns out, he has been very blessed. Because the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, he has monoparesis (a type of Cerebral Palsy, muscle weakness caused by damage to the brain) in his right leg from the ankle down. However, unlike many stroke survivors, he does not have speech difficulties or muscle weakness in his face, hand or arm. He does not have any cognitive impairment, either.
He goes to physical therapy once a week, wears an AFO (ankle foot orthotic), and a device called a WalkAide. He had a gait analysis done last year, and I had to answer a ton of questions about what he is able to do, whether he requires assistance to do it, how far he can walk, etc. I was feeling a bit sorry for him, because we had come to the point where the brace was no longer enough, and his physiatrist felt that he needed more aggressive intervention. Filling out that questionnaire was humbling, though. I kept answering “yes” to almost every question, “no” to his needing assistance, and admitted that he can hike for a few miles. The only thing I couldn’t say that he can do is play sports. As my husband pointed out, it is unlikely that he would have been athletic, anyway, because neither of us are.
I will write a follow-up post about the more recent interventions that we have utilized, but I thought it was important to share this video and information about pediatric stroke for those who are not aware of it. Until it happened to my son, I had no idea that a baby could have a stroke. The sooner it is diagnosed, the sooner the patient can receive the care that they need.
*I have decided to use pseudonyms for my children, to protect their privacy.