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 None of the stories or pictures on these pages may be used without the express written permission of the Pediatric Stroke Network and/or the parents of these children. These stories are copyrighted by the intellectual property law. All stories are original submissions written by parents.

 

Allen Mitchell's Story 
 

    Mitchell had a normal active childhood.  He was 4 years old, learning to read and ride a bike without training wheels.  His best friend was a 7-year old neighbor, and they constantly played together.  Even though Mitchell was considerably younger, he was extremely mature for his age, and tall, and he could keep up easily.  We had absolutely no warning signs of any health problems with Mitchell.  One evening that summer, we let him play at the neighbors house while his dad, brother, and I ran a quick errand.  He was outside playing basketball when we left.  When we got back and turned the corner into our cul-de-sac, all of the neighbors were outside, and one of them flagged us down in the middle of the street.  At first we thought they were just goofing around, but when he said Somethings wrong with Mitchell, we could hear the seriousness in his voice. 

     The frantic story we got was as follows.  Mitchell had been playing basketball when he said his head was hurting really bad.  Then he fell down, got back up, and started heading to our backyard saying he wanted to go play on the swing set.  He walked across the driveway and collapsed face-first into the grass. His friends mom came running over to see what was going on, and realized immediately that this was very serious.  She picked Mitchell up and carried him back to her house where she laid him on a comforter, and called 911.  Another neighbor, who is a volunteer paramedic, came over to assess his condition while the ambulance was on its way.

     When we saw him, he was incoherent and in and out of consciousness.  His heartbeat and breathing were fine, but every minute or two he would thrash around and moan.  We noticed that he seemed to only be moving his left side.  When the ambulance arrived, the paramedics quickly assessed him, then called for Air Care.  I rode in the helicopter with him to the hospital.  In the Emergency Room, we were asked all sorts of questions about allergies, history of seizures, epilepsy, could he have eaten something poisonous, what kinds of medicines could he have taken.every answer was negative.  They ran a CT scan of his brain, which came up normal, and did blood and urine tests to look for poisons, etc.  Everything was coming back inconclusive, so they said it was probably just a seizure, and that he would wake up perfectly normal in the morning.  They said that theses seizures typically lasted no more than 12 hours, and they kept him overnight.

     By 6:00 in the morning, they ordered another CT scan.  It was becoming more apparent that he was only moving one side of his body, and they were concerned that he may have had a stroke.  The second CT scan confirmed that he had had a major blockage of the middle cerebral artery on the left side of his brain.  The neurologist informed us that his speech center was probably damaged, as well as his gross motor and sensory connections to the right side.  They wouldnt know for sure what was affected for several days.  Also, they was already some swelling beginning in his brain, and they warned us that this was critical in a small child, as their skull is not large enough to allow for much swelling.  They placed a small pressure sensor inside Mitchells skull to measure the amount of swelling, and he was hooked up to a respirator in case the swelling caused his brain to stop controlling his breathing properly.

     The next 2 days Mitchell fought for his life.  Steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs were not able to keep the pressure in his brain to acceptable levels.  At 3:00 in the morning on his third day in the hospital, we were told that they would have to remove a part of his skull bone to allow his brain more room to swell.  Without the surgery, Mitchell would suffer further brain damage, possibly even death.  The odds were relatively high that removing the bone would save his life, and hopefully prevent any more brain damage.  Mitchells surgery (craniectomy) went without a hitch, and within hours the pressure leveled out.  The next day, the pressure started to go back down.

    It was about a week before Mitchell was weaned off of the respirator, heavy I.V. sedatives, and could finally become coherent.  We were ecstatic to know we would still have our child, but the question remained Would he still be Mitchell?  In the next few days, it was clear that Mitchell had completely lost his speech center.  He couldnt even remember how to use his voice, much less speak any words.  The first time they got him out of bed and put him in a wheelchair, his head just rolled forward.  He didnt have the strength or control to even hold up his head.  Over the next few weeks, he went through intense rehab physical, occupational, and speech therapy.  It was amazing, yet at the same time heart-breaking, to see him relearn how to talk, eat, and help dress himself.  To make matters worse, the tube they had used to intubate him had left scar tissue, and after about two weeks he had to have a tracheotomy so he could breath.  Mitchell stayed in the hospital for 7 weeks so that he could have full-time rehab.  After he was released, he went to all 3 forms of rehab therapy several times a week. About 4 months later, they were able to put the piece of skull bone back in place.  Two months later, he successfully had his trach removed.

     We still question why he had a stroke.  The doctors were never able to come up with a conclusive answer.  His blood work turned up the Factor V Leiden disorder (which I have since found out was inherited from me), but the source of the clot is still unknown.  The only cause that seems likely at all is that Mitchell rode a very rough roller-coaster three days prior to the stroke, which may have created a tear in the carotid artery.  They were never able to examine the carotid artery because of the breathing problems caused by the respirator tube.

     Now it has been two years, and Mitchell is in First grade.  He speaks, reads, and writes (with his left hand now) at or above the average level for his age.  He quickly re-learned how to walk, although he still has a substantial weakness on the right side.  He has very little control of his right hand, but he can do almost anything with his left hand.  Overall, Mitchell is back to being Mitchell an almost 7-year old boy who loves to run with his friends and play.

 


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This page last updated 11/23/2002