The Pediatric Stroke Network http://www.pediatricstrokenetwork.com/index.html gives a list of known causes for childhood strokes and acknowledges that strokes also happen in children from unknown causes. If you are a parent, talk with your doctor and educate yourself on the warning signs of stroke in children. These may include such things as seizures, a sudden loss of speech and weakness or paralysis on one side of the body. Find out as much as you can and if you see your child displaying any of the signs of a stroke get immediate help. Minutes may make all the difference.
After her stroke Daisy, at twenty-one months old, was paralyzed and unable to talk. Now it's nearly two years later and Daisy is walking and talking and continuing to recover but Daisy's family is being told: "Two years is it. After two years Daisy will stop recovering." What is the benefit of a statement like this? We are just at the beginning of discovering what the brain can do. Most of the functioning of the brain remains a mystery.
The need to be "right" is the enemy of possibility. A more beneficial statement would be: "We don't know how much more Daisy might recover." The willingness to let go of being right opens up Daisy's story to discovery. Being open to discovery stimulates creativity. Scientist do know that the brain loves creativity. The brain thrives on it.
Like all childhood stroke survivors, Daisy and her family have a long journey ahead of them. Daisy has a life to make and her family needs to be there to help her. What will help Daisy and her family to sustain hope and effort and creativity in the coming years is the knowledge that possibilities for recovery continue to exist.
There are no guarantees. Nobody, at any age, gets a guaranty of recovery. Recovery is the result of many factors. Outcomes are unknown and uncertain. But the motivation to continue to pay attention and make the effort needed to challenge the disability in order to build areas of the brain can make an enormous difference.
Research has shown that attention builds the brain. What we pay attention to and make effort towards we wire in our brain tissue. If we pay a lot of attention the area of the brain we use grows larger. This is true throughout our lives, no matter how old we are.
Daisy is a small child. Her life, and in many ways, her brain, will be shaped by the adults who care for her. Daisy is fortunate. She has parents who don't give up easily. But how can we support them? How can we help them as they work to keep Daisy focused on growing stronger and more able - to always pay attention to the ways in which her body can develop abilities?
What motivates any of us to pay attention to something? We pay attention because we believe there is some benefit from that attention - either it's fun, or we think we can gain something from doing it. Where do those beliefs come from? They come from the stories of possibility we tell one another. Let's support the adults around Daisy in helping Daisy discover how she can grow up to have a rich and meaningful life. Let's tell Daisy and everyone connected with Daisy stories of possibility. Children have strokes and children with strokes can grow up to lead powerful and meaningful lives. Recently I met a young woman who had stroke as a child and who is now in graduate school earning a Ph.D. Why not?
Daisy's mother, Eileen, has set up a Facebook page and is speaking out on childhood strokes and how little people are aware of the dangers. She is collecting positive, encouraging stories from whomever she can.
Visit Daisy's Facebook page. Read the stories. Write one of your own. Spread the word about childhood strokes.
For Daisy's sake - for all our sakes - let's support one another in not having to know all the answers before we start, in being willing to let go of being right, in being willing to discover what's possible.