Advice for a Family New to a Pediatric Stroke Diagnosis

Originally published on October 16th on the American Heart Association Support Network blog.

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No one expects to hear that their child has suffered a stroke. When a stroke diagnosis is given to an infant, child, or teenager, often the first thought is: “…but, wait, strokes only happen to the elderly. How can my child have had a stroke?” The first hours, days, and even months following that diagnosis can be overwhelming, confusing, and downright scary.

I should know. My son had three massive strokes at birth.

I’m now four years into my journey of parenting a perinatal stroke survivor. After a year of living in a pretty dark state of mind, I dusted myself off, dove into researching how to best care for my son, and have transformed myself into a confident caregiver of a child with special needs.

As part of my transformation, I’ve found myself helping other parents through this uncertain journey. When I’m approached by a family new to a pediatric stroke diagnosis, here’s what I tell them. Continue reading

Verbal Or Non-Verbal, That Is The Question

Is your child verbal?

How would you answer this question when you can understand the handful of words that your “non-verbal” child has and know that he can answer yes and no questions with 95% accuracy? Man, oh man, I struggle with this.

Sol’s language center was completely wiped out by the three strokes he had at birth. We’ve always firmly believed that he is not cognitively delayed and that he understood everything we said to him, even though his expressive speech was severely delayed. He started to have words after we did our first round of hyperbaric oxygen therapy and his expressive speech has exploded since we did stem cell therapy back in March. To date, we figure that he has somewhere between 20 – 30 words, has just started stringing 2 words together, and, like Bea, will speak in his own language. (Sometimes I think Bea understands him as I will frequently find the two of them conversing back and forth.) Continue reading

Taking A Pause

It’s been a rough couple of weeks.

Bea’s been whiny. She hasn’t been sleeping, eating, or wanting to do anything other than hold my hand. Solly has been cheerful as always, yet somehow not acting himself – running a little warm, not eating great, just a little off. I’ve been exhausted. More so than usual. We’ve been struggling to get anything done other than keeping ourselves fed, staying cool in the summer humidity, and getting in bed at a reasonable hour.

Something just hasn’t been right.

Then, last Monday, Bea started sticking her fingers in her ears. She was jumpy at any noise, crying unusually hard when Solly spoke too loudly or when the dogs barked. She threw a fit – a full-on two year-old’s meltdown at only 16 months old – immediately when she didn’t get her way.

Something wasn’t right. Continue reading

Another Walk in the Park

We struggle with motivation. I always get a little envious when I see other babies just sit and play with toys or get up and walk toward their favorite stuffed animal. Bea would do just about anything for an episode of Sesame Street or for her Elmo stuffed animals. Nothing like this ever works for Solly. He’d rather just sit and chew on whatever is in his path than press buttons on a toy or play with a toy car.

This has made therapies – both in a clinical setting and at home – rather difficult. It’s impossible to work on Solly’s strength or functional movement if all he wants to do is hunker down and chomp on a puzzle piece. If a 3 year old doesn’t want to do the work and isn’t interested in anything that will trick him into doing the work, how can we make any gains?

Continue reading

One, Two, Three, Kick, Kick, Kick

Solly’s schedule is filled with endless therapies and doctors appointments, sometimes up to 4 appointments a day. Last week, I think we hit an all-time appointment record with 15 appointments in one week! While we’ve adjusted his therapies to try and have as many “fun” therapies as possible and Solly generally comes out of each appointment with a big ol’ smile on his face, I still sometimes worry that he’s missing out on typical toddler fun activities. I find myself wondering, how can I get my special needs kiddo involved in something that other kids his age or of his ability might be interested in that isn’t therapy?

Continue reading