“Knowledge is power” is a phrase our generation has heard many times.
The phrase has encouraged and conditioned us to gain as much information as we possibly can on a wide range of topics in hopes to gain awareness to know the signs and symptoms of an issue, in case we ever come face to face with a problem, situation, or medical emergency. We hope the knowledge we gain will give us the power to act swiftly and with precision if we find ourselves dealing with a crisis. We hope creating awareness will prepare us, but many times we think it will never happen to us.
I never considered the possibility that one of my three children would suffer from a Stroke, but that is exactly what happened.
In February 2014, I stood over my youngest child as she laid in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. At the age of two, our youngest daughter, Adalee, was paralyzed on the entire right side of her body and lost her ability to speak. It takes a lot of mental and emotional effort to process that your young toddler, who has no pre-existing conditions, could be suffering from a stroke. I had never before thought about a young child being a victim of a stroke. It is “normal” to hear about this type of acute situation happening to the elderly, or even middle aged adults….but a child? It never had crossed my mind. My grandmother suffered a stroke, but she was 102 and lived to be 104. My context of this issue had only been related to middle aged and senior adults.
Apparently, I was not the only one. The phrase I heard the most during this time was “I did not know a two-year old could have a stroke.”
Creating awareness that children and people of all ages can be affected by a stroke is essential.
The truth is that a stroke can happen to children and adults of all ages. It can even happen to a child in utero.
The month of May is designated “National Stroke Awareness” month in order to educate the public on identifying the signs of a stroke.
According to the National Stroke Association the definition of a stroke:
- Sudden brain damage
- Lack of blood flow to the brain caused by a clot or rupture of a blood vessel
National Stroke Association & the American Stroke Association the Following are Facts about Strokes:
- Stroke remains among the top 10 causes of death in children
- Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.
- Each year nearly 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke.
- Nearly 130,000 deaths each year (every four minutes someone dies from stroke).
- There are approximately 7 million stroke survivors
- A stroke happens every 40 seconds.
- Every 4 minutes someone dies from a stroke.
- Stroke is a leading cause of adult disability.
- Up to 80% of all strokes are preventable through risk factor management.
Approximately 3,000 children suffer a stroke in the United States per year. Two thirds of the time a cause can be determined in the case of a pediatric patient.
It is also important to know Common Risks of Stroke in Children, because those risks are different than those of adults. Risks in children include:
- Congenital heart defects
- Heart Disease
- Sickle-cell disease
- Immune disorders
- Diseases of the arteries
- Problems with blood vessels supplying the brain
- Blood clotting Disorders
- Head or neck trauma
- Maternal history of infertility
- Maternal infection in the fluid surrounding an unborn baby
- Premature rupture of membrane during pregnancy
- Pregnancy related high blood pressure in the mother
If a child deals with any of these issues that does NOT mean they will suffer from a stroke. It only means they are at a higher risk. It is important to know what increases the risk of stroke in order to address it with your pediatrician and health care provider.
It is also important to note that a child can suffer from a stroke without any pre-existing conditions, as was the case with my daughter. Adalee’s stroke was ruled the “Perfect Storm” because not one cause could be determined.
Over the past few years, there has been a media campaign by several organizations and the medical community to educate the public on the symptoms of a stroke. Many of us have seen the ads on billboards, in social media, and magazines that inform the public on the signs of a stroke.
FAST signs are not the only symptoms presented in children or teenagers suffering from a stroke. Pediatric stroke can also display the following:
- Headaches, possibly with vomiting.
- Sudden paralysis or weakness on one side of the body.
- Trouble swallowing.
- Vision problems, such as blurred or double vision.
The purpose of FAST media campaign has been to teach the signs of a stroke in order for the public to know how to react, and to relate it is imperative to ACT QUICKLY.
- The sooner a stroke patient receives medical treatment the more likely they are to survive.
- Acting quickly can save a life, and potentially lessen long-term side effects that occur from having a stroke.
- Every stroke is different, but children typically have a better chance at recovery.
- Rehabilitation is typically a part of the recovery process. Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapies are usually necessary to regain as much bodily use as possible.
In addition to knowing and acting on these signs, it is important to know to respond quickly. If you see your child presenting any of the FAST signs drop everything, act swiftly, and take your child to an emergency room as soon as possible.
On a personal note, you as a parent know your child better than anyone else. Trust your instincts when something is “off”, or “not right”with your child. We have been given a parental or “Mother’s intuition” for a reason. Never ignore any changes or symptoms.
As parents we do not have to live in fear of potential issues, but we can be mindful of the facts.
We can hope and pray we never have to walk that road, but we also never know how our knowledge might one day save a life. That very life could be your own child. As parents, it is our job to be an advocate for our children. As a parent with a child who is a stroke survivor, it is my duty to advocate education and awareness for this life threatening issue.
May the Month of May pay tribute to the children who were lost, and celebrate the survivors and their families.