Community, Education, Health & Wellness

The Unexpected: Children Can Have Strokes

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Edgire Joseph credits Dr. Celso Agner with saving her 11-year-old daughter’s life from a condition many may not associate with children. Stroke.

Strokes are a lot more common – and potentially deadly – in children than people might realize. “It’s the 10th leading cause of mortality in children,” said Agner, who treated Joseph’s daughter, Coral Springs pre-teen Lynn-sah Joseph.

Lynn-say’s symptoms, on the day she suffered a stroke last November, suggested something wasn’t right. At school, she complained about feeling dizzy and had a headache. When Lynn-sah came home her symptoms worsened. EMS personnel rushed her to Broward Health Medical Center. The girl’s condition deteriorated – until she became paralyzed on her left side.

Following her diagnosis, Lynn-sah underwent emergency surgery to remove a blood clot in the middle of her brain. Six days after the operation, Lynn-sah’s neurological test returned normal. She did, however, suffer some residual weakness in her left arm. Lynn-sah returned to school six weeks later.

Her mother recalled feeling “scared” and “shocked” on that November day, when her daughter couldn’t feel her left side. “The second shock that day was when I found out they didn’t have any stroke treatments for children,” Edgire said. “Dr. Agner is the best and he saved my daughter’s life.” The physician is an interventional neurologist at Broward Health Medical Center.

“I didn’t want to believe that I had a stroke,” Lynn-sah said. “Not at my age. I thought it happened to people who are older.”

Agner said strokes are “not very common” in children and teenagers. “Most childhood strokes occur either because the youth has Sickle Cell Disease, or because the youngster had suffered a form of trauma. “Non-traumatic stroke is even more rare, because they are not recognized easily,” Agner said.

In Lynn-sah’s case, “the cause of stroke has not been identified yet,” he added. “We are working on it. The patient has been consulted by specialists in cardiology and hematology.”

Stroke is more likely in the teen years than in earlier childhood. Agner said it’s “hard to talk about numbers because strokes are often missed. It is getting more frequently diagnosed because the awareness on the condition is increasing, so we start seeing more cases.”

Agner said children and their caregivers should be on the lookout for the following symptoms: Difficulty moving limbs on one side, problems with vision, trouble speaking, unresponsiveness, or not being alert. “If any of these things occur without a prior history of occurring, there should be a concern for stroke,” he said. “Children should be taken to the ER immediately. Do not delay or wait. The main problem with pediatric stroke is early recognition.”

According to Broward Health officials, Lynn-sah’s early diagnosis “led to a positive outcome that highlights the importance of timely stroke intervention.”

While better technology exists to treat childhood stroke patients, “approved protocols are currently not approved for children, so it is treated on a case-by-case basis,” Agner said. In Lynn-sah’s case, treatment has resulted in a positive outcome.

“She started off with a complete left-side paralysis,” Agner said. “Now she has a slight left arm weakness but it is almost imperceptible now.”

According to a Broward Health press release, Lynn-sah is back to being a fun-loving, happy pre-teen. “I feel back the way I used to be – active, jumpy, I feel great,” Lynn-sah said.

Lynn-sah is looking toward her future. “When I grow up, I want to be a neurologist like Dr. Agner,” she said.

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