A SOLIHULL family is urging parents, young people and children to learn about the signs of childhood stroke following the launch of new guidelines for parents.
Isabelle O’Donnell was three years old when her mother Emma noticed that she couldn’t stand up, her face had drooped and she couldn’t talk.
Concerned, her mother immediately took Isabelle to hospital but she didn’t imagine that it could be a stroke.
Initially the family were told it was nothing serious and, it was only at their insistence that Isabelle referred to a specialist child unit.
After a five-hour wait for an ambulance transfer, Isabelle was eventually diagnosed as having had a mini-stroke.
This delay in diagnosis could have been catastrophic.
Isabelle’s mum, Emma Coldicott, said: “So few people realise that children can have strokes, but it doesn’t only happen to old people, it can happen at any age even to babies.
“Everyone needs to be aware of the signs of stroke in children because the faster a stroke is treated the better the chance of making a good recovery.
“We were incredibly fortunate that Isabelle’s stroke was relatively minor, caused by a blood clot following a fall.
“She recovered her speech within a week, with her mobility improving after a couple of months.
“She was on medication for a year, and we’ve been told to monitor her for signs of epilepsy. Her neurologist discharged her after a couple of years.”
The Guideline, produced by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and the Stroke Association, covers diagnosis and rehabilitation and includes signs for spotting strokes in children:
* Most children experiencing a stroke will have symptoms recognised by the FAST test: Facial weakness, Arm weakness, Speech problems, Time to call 999
* Some children and young people may complain of a headache and others may have seizures (fits) at the time of the stroke. New and sudden onset of vertigo, dizziness, neck pain or neck stiffness are also sometimes signs that a child or young person is having or has had a stroke.
* Nausea and/or vomiting, fever or loss of consciousness can also be signs of a stroke in children, so do not discount these.
Dr Vijeya Ganesan, a paediatric neurologist and spokesperson for the RCPCH, said: “Although much less common than in adults, stroke is a devastating childhood illness, leaving permanent effects on most affected children.
“Early recognition is important to direct children towards rapid diagnosis and treatment.
“Many children with symptoms or signs that suggest stroke may have other serious neurological disorders and could also benefit from the changes in approach recommended by the guideline.
“The guidelines also provide comprehensive information on how to best manage the long term needs of children, particularly rehabilitation.”
Juliet Bouverie, Chief Executive of the Stroke Association, said: “Childhood stroke is often extremely frightening and stressful for children and their families.
“Far too few people realise that a child can have a stroke, which means diagnosis and treatment can take longer than for older patients.
“Whatever age you are, when stroke strikes, quick diagnosis is vital.”
To find out more and download the guidelines visit www.rcpch.ac.uk/stroke-guideline