THE SUN, Thursday November 24th, 2011
EVERY year the lives of 150,000 people are devastated by Stroke in the UK.
It is Britain's third biggest killer after heart disease and cancer and costs the economy more than £8billion a year.
But recent statistics have revealed a growing number of the known victims are children.
Thanks to increased awareness among doctors and better diagnosis it's now believed up to 450 kids are affected every year.
The cause of a childhood stroke is very different to what causes a stroke in an adult and may include chickenpox, iron deficiency anaemia, head trauma, congenital heart disease or sickle cell disease. Children do not share the lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking and eating fatty food that puts adults at risk.
But what they do share is the devastating impact it can have on their lives.
Here, we meet three children whose lives changed for ever when they had a stroke.
LILY-MAE HAD STROKE AGED 7
Katie YOUNG and her husband Simon, who runs a medical recruitment agency, live in the Nook Bridge district of Basildon, Essex, with their children Teddy, five, and Lily-Mae, ten. In June, 2009, Lily, then seven, suffered a stroke. Katie says:
Lily-Mae was a bubbly, sweet little girl who loved singing, dancing and the colour pink. At school, she had lots of friends and was healthy.
She suffered the usual childhood illnesses chickenpox, tonsillitis, and had to be operated on for a squint. Otherwise, she was perfectly normal.
One afternoon I collected her from school and she said, "Mummy, I feel wobbly, and I've got a bad headache." Ten minutes later, we got home, but instead of getting out of the car, she said, "Mummy, I can't walk:
I thought she was messing about as she had a great sense of humour. Then she got out of the car and said, "Mummy, my leg feels funny. "
I'd never heard of children having strokes, so it never occurred to me that she was having one. So I gave her headache pills and put her to bed.
The moment she woke up in the morning, she started slurring her speech, her left arm was limp and the left side of her face had dropped
I rushed her to the emergency room. An MRI scan showed that she'd had a blood clot on the brain, for no particular reason.
From then on she had physiotherapy twice a day and within two weeks her face was back to normal. Within six weeks she was over the stroke.
Doctors say that even if we had taken her to hospital earlier it wouldn't have mattered, she'd already had the stroke. Now I am grateful that she is alive, well, and has recovered.
CHLOE HAD STROKE AGED 8 MONTHS
JANE WOOD is a single mum living in Bradford, West Yorkshire, with her two children, Chloe, thirteen, and Thomas, nine. Chloe suffered a stroke aged only eight months.
Beforehand, Chloe seemed to be a normal baby, just like any other.
She sat up, crawled, smiled all the time and loved banging toy bricks together.
One day, I was watching her banging the bricks when all of a sudden, she. stopped using her left hand.
I prompted her to use it, but she wouldn't, and I couldn't understand why.
I thought I might have picked her up wrongly, or pulled her arm by mistake, and I was worried. So the next morning, I took her to St Luke's Hospital in Bradford.
The hospital didn't know what was wrong with her but they kept her in for a week so they could supervise her.
By now, she was sitting up again and smiling, but what had happened to her left hand was still a mystery, so she was transferred to Leeds General Infirmary.
They examined her and told me that she'd had a stroke.
I had no idea that babies had strokes and I went into shock.
They sent her home, but three months later, she had a series of fits during which her eyes rolled back.
We rushed her to hospital, she had another stroke there and they discovered that she had the Moyamoya syndrome, a rare disease caused by blocked arteries at the base of the brain which can lead to strokes.
At two, she underwent a ten-hour brain operation.
Beforehand, I was told that she might never be able to walk or talk again.
But soon after she started to walk again. But she couldn't talk. She had a second operation but still couldn't talk.
She learned to sign and today, even though she still can't talk, at least she can communicate what she wants.
She is 13 now and in many ways is a typical teenager. She's cheeky, loves musicals, disco music and JLS.
She attends a special needs school, and understands everything that is said to her, but still can't speak.
Every year, I hope and pray that she'll regain her speech but I think the brain damage from the stroke can never be reversed and that she will never speak again.
JESSICA HAD STROKE AGED 9
TARNIA REDFEARN, 43, a social work assistant, was devastated when daughter Jessica suffered a stroke aged nine as she played on a trampoline. Tamia and husband, Tim, 41, a railway engineer, who live in Ashford, Kent, want to raise awareness of the condition.
Many people, even doctors and nurses, question Jess's diagnosis, saying: “That can't be right. Strokes only affect old people.” But that's untrue.
We found out the hard way. On March 1, 2008, we took Jessica, now 13, and sister Stephanie, ten, to a birthday party. I was sipping tea and watching from the window as she and a friend played on a trampoline in the garden.
The girls weren't going mad or throwing themselves about. But Jessica came inside clutching her head, saying it hurt.
It was a lovely warm day and I thought maybe she'd been in the sun too long.
But then I saw the left side of her face suddenly slide downwards - like it was made of wax and melting. Seconds later, she collapsed to the ground. I sat on the kitchen floor, cradling her as one of the other mums dialled 999. Jessica was admitted to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford where doctors thought it was a bad migraine. But we didn't believe that.
A CT brain scan showed nothing abnormal but Jessica was sent to the Evelina Children's Hospital in Lambeth, South London, for further tests. An MRI scan the next day confirmed Jessica had had a stroke. She spent the next ten days in hospital. Jessica's stroke had left her body weak on the right side of her body, so we had to build up her muscles there.
But on March 18, 2008, Jessica started complaining of a headache again. She suffered a second stroke.
This time the recovery took a lot longer. She was in hospital three weeks and had a range of treatments to try to strengthen her muscles, including splints, hydrotherapy, physiotherapy and botox. She's doing well now and we consider ourselves to be among the lucky ones. Many childhood strokes go undetected.
IT is a common myth that stroke only happens to older people but at least 400 children a year have a stroke in the UK.
Diagnosis of childhood stroke can sometimes be delayed, as people generally don't suspect children have had a stroke.
However, prompt treatment can improve outcomes for children, just as it can for adults. The causes of stroke in children are different to those in adults. These include sickle cell disease and heart problems.
However, the symptoms to look out for are the same. A stroke can be diagnosed using FAST:
Facial weakness - has the person's face drooped, usually down one side?
Arm weakness - is the person able to lift both arms above their head?
Speech problems - does the person's speech sound slurred?
Time to call 999.
If one or more of these symptoms are present then call 999 immediately.
It is imperative that more research is done to help establish the reasons behind childhood stroke.
For help or advice see stroke.org.uk or childstrokesupport.com.