kids

'How could this happen to a child?': Amy's son was 10 when the tingling in his hands began.

As a parent we’re always worrying about our children, no matter how old they are. But one thing that I never worried about with any of my children was them having a stroke. Never in a million years did I ever think that it would happen us, it just wasn’t on my radar.

Then on Saturday 6 May 2017, life as we knew it changed forever.

Now, we’re just your average family with four children. At the time, life was extremely busy. My eldest daughter was completing her last year of VCE and was studying for exams. That week prior, my 10-year-old son Aashtin hadn’t been feeling very well.

He was complaining of headaches and tingling in his hands. I had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right, call it mother’s intuition. I took my youngest to the paediatrician on Wednesday and she said it was a virus and to go home and rest. That eased my mind.

Yet by Saturday, things had gone downhill fast. Aashtin was vomiting uncontrollably, unable to sit up and couldn’t comprehend basic instructions. His eyes kept going back and forth and were unable to focus.

can a child have a stroke
"I knew this wasn’t good so we called an ambulance immediately." Image: Supplied.

I knew this wasn’t good so we called an ambulance immediately. He was taken to Geelong Hospital where a CT scan showed something had happened to his brain. Doctors initially told me that he had a brain tumour. He was rushed to the Royal Children’s Hospital where they did an MRI. It was at this point they discovered Aashtin had in fact had several strokes over the course of a week, and the biggest stroke had occurred on the Saturday.

The headaches and tingling hands were all symptoms of mini strokes. We were absolutely devastated. In a matter of a few hours, our whole world had been turned upside down.

How could this happen to one of our children? I tried to stay strong for Aashtin, I didn’t want him to see me cry. Aashtin had a tear in one of the artery’s in his neck and  this is what had caused the strokes. We thought the worst of it was behind us.

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A few days into his hospital stay, Aashtin became extremely drowsy and couldn’t be woken up. They rushed him for more scans and found that he had swelling and fluid on his brain. He was taken for emergency surgery where doctors needed to cut out a bit of his skull to ease the pressure and put a drain in.

can a child have a stroke?
"I was trying to cause minimal disruption to the other 3 children’s lives, and needed to be a shoulder to cry on for them also." Image: Supplied.

I remember saying to the doctors that I didn’t care if Aashtin would never walk again, I could deal with that. But I would never be able to deal with losing my baby boy. They needed to help him.

The surgery was successful and over the next few days he slowly began to wake up. It was so hard seeing my child in such a vulnerable state. He ended up staying at the Royal Children’s Hospital for six weeks. It was a slow recovery.

During the six weeks, I was driving up to Melbourne and back to Geelong everyday, sometimes twice a day. Not only was it mentally draining but physically draining, I was also trying to cause minimal disruption to the other three children’s lives. I needed to be a shoulder for them to cry on for them also. It was a really tough time for the whole family.

Aashtin had to learn to sit, stand and walk all over again, and his right side had been affected. Aashtin never complained once, his kind and caring nature shone through and he was determined to get out of the wheelchair and walk again. He worked so hard with the physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists. He put in 100 per cent effort. It’s amazing how during the darkest of times, he was able to shine so bright.

After being discharged from hospital Aashtin continued his recovery back in Geelong. There was an endless amount of appointments each week but we stayed positive and got through them. Aashtin jumped through every hoop that was put in front of him. It is amazing how resilient children are. He pushed himself hard and learnt to walk, run and jump again.

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It is now nearly two years down the track and things have changed. Looking back at that period in time, I wonder how we all managed to get through it. I think I was running on auto pilot for the first month, doing anything and everything I could to make sure my child made it through. We had great support and guidance from everyone involved in Aashtin’s recovery. The staff at the Royal Children’s Hospital are top notch and the best there is.

Aashtin in now 12-years-old and has started high school this year. Seeing him walk through those gates was emotional to say the least. You wouldn’t know he had six months off school, academically he’s achieving great results and he’s made lots of new friends. We’re so proud of how far he’s come.

If I could give any advice to other families who are going through this it would be - there IS light at the end of the tunnel. Your child will continue to improve years down the track.

You need to stay positive, it’s easy to get caught up in the negativity. Listen to the advice given from therapists and doctors. But having said that, you also need to say how you feel. If you don’t think your child is ready to do something, let it be known.

Parents also take time out of the day to leave the hospital room and go down to the cafeteria and grab a coffee. You need to take time out to recharge. You're not letting your child down by doing this.

Finally, celebrate the milestones, we were all so proud of Aashtin when he learnt to walk again. And above all, cherish the time spent with your child.

Has your child ever experienced a stroke? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.

Doctors from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute have helped lead the development of Australia’s first ever clinical guidelines that will improve the diagnosis and acute management of children that suffer a stroke.

Approximately 300 babies and children are diagnosed with a stroke in Australia each year. More than half of the children that survive have long term disabilities that they carry for their lifetime at great cost to themselves, their families and the healthcare system. The guidelines that have been endorsed by The Stroke Foundation and the Australian and New Zealand Child Neurology Society, will speed up diagnosis when time is critical, to minimise brain injury and improve recovery.

A key recommendation of the guidelines is that rehabilitation be delivered by an team of health professionals from diverse backgrounds such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists, education consultants, clinical psychologists, neuropsychologists, speech pathologists, social workers and dieticians. It’s also critical that the child’s family be involved in all stages of the child’s rehabilitation.

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