Fast care, aggressive therapy a must for kids' strokes

Watch the report from Action News' Erin O'Hearn (WPVI)
May 7, 2014 10:21:11 AM PDT
May is stroke awareness month. And while the danger is higher for those over 65, children can have strokes, too.

Maddie Krassner is no shy violet.

She races around her home, showing us her toys and dolls.

But this bundle of energy was almost disabled by a stroke when she was just 15 months old.

Her mother, Kathryn Duffy, recalls, "We were just getting ready for dinner, and I just noticed that she was dragging her one side."

After a trip to the doctor, then MRI's at children's hospital, her parents got the diagnosis.

"It was a shock, a real shock for us," her mother says.

Stroke affects 25 of every 100-thousand newborns, and about 12 of every 100-thousand children.

The symptoms are similar- weakness on one side, slurred speech, or a loss of vision.

But they are often missed.

"When a child has weakness in their hand or arm, if it doesn't hurt, if it doesn't interfere with their play or activities, they don;t necessarily draw attention to it," says Dr. Rebecca Ichord, neurologist at Children's Hospital.

Dr. Ichord says kids have more strokes caused by blood clots than adults.

It's the prime reason for strokes among newborns.

As well as kids who have chronic illnesses, like sickle cell or heart disease.

But, like Maddie, half of the kids who have strokes are otherwise healthy, and doctors can't always find a cause.

However it happens, fast action is a must.

"Just as we say in adults, time is brain," says Dr. Ichord.

After aggressive treatment and physical therapy, Maddie is right on target for a 5-year-old.

" I play, ride my bike," she says, beaming.

"She has done dance classes at school, she does computer classes," her mother adds.

Dr. Ichord says children also need learning and emotional support after stroke.

But the brain usually finds a way to make up for what's lost.