NJ boy using stroke experience to spread awareness

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NJ boy using stroke experience to spread awareness. Ali Gorman reports during Action News at 5 p.m. on May 30, 2017. (WPVI)

It's a myth that only adults have strokes. They can occur at any age, even before birth.

A South Jersey family is using their experience to make all ages more stroke-aware.

Eleven-year-old Evan Boxley plays piano for fun now, but it used to be for therapy, to help him regain hand movement following his strokes.

Three years ago, Evan developed bad headaches, but tests then didn't show any problems.

"So they started to treat him as a migraine sufferer," Evan's mother Ayanna Boxley said.

Ayanna was about to take her son to the doctor for an apparent stomach virus when things got worse.

"Evan stopped talking, he stopped walking. He's just wailing," Ayanna said.

Doctors determined Evan had had a stroke. His mother said blood vessels in the brain were blocked by bits breaking off a tiny tumor in his heart.

"I never would have thought that children had strokes," Ayanna said.

After open heart surgery to remove the tumor, Evan was on the road to recovery.

"I had to learn how to walk again, balance, and pretty much talk," Evan said.

There were some other issues, however, including mini-strokes, probably caused by microscopic blood clots.

Blood thinners keep those risks under control now, though they do limit some activities.

"We can't go to water parks, amusements rides that are too rigorous are off limits," Ayanna said.

And contact sports are a no-go for Evan.

But Evan runs track, and enjoys pool and bowling with his dad.

He's also gearing up for his dream profession.

"I want to be a veterinarian," Evan said.

Evan is also a regular at local American Heart Association events, trying to get the word out on stroke prevention.

The stroke signs in kids and teens are mostly the same as adults, such as sudden weakness or numbness, vision problems.

They can also show other symptoms, such as trouble swallowing, memory loss, sudden difficulty with schoolwork, or behavioral changes.
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