The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

May 26, 2013

Stricken by stroke: Risk not limited to seniors

Randy Griffith
rgriffith@tribdem.com

JEROME — Although age is a major risk factor for stroke – doubling every decade after age 55 – Jennifer and Michael Rose will tell you that even babies are not immune.

Their son, Michael, suffered a stroke a few days before he was born.

The first sign that anything was wrong came when Jennifer Rose was in labor.

“With every contraction, his heart slowed and he was having difficulty breathing,” she said. “They decided to do an emergency C-section.”

Soon after the cesarean delivery, little Michael began to have seizures. Doctors determined he’d had a stroke and his brain was damaged.

“They gave me what I guess was the worst case scenario,” Jennifer Rose said, holding the active 3-year-old on her lap.

“They said he would not survive because his brain was so damaged it could not regulate his heartbeat and breathing. If he did survive, he’d have no quality of life. He’d be a vegetable.”

But Michael proved them wrong.

“I think he’s a relatively typical 3-year-old,” his mother said.

Experts say childhood strokes are rare, but affect about 1 in 2,800 full-term infants within a month of their birth, the Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association says. Although there are many risk factors, the cause for one in three strokes in newborns is never found.

Like most childhood stroke patients, Michael continues to live with long-term effects, Jennifer Rose said.

He has difficulty using his left arm and left hand and he has some developmental delays. The long-term effects remain a question.

“They don’t really want to make a guess or judgment about how far he will develop,” she said.

Because they are so rare, childhood strokes have not been researched extensively, the association said. They have often been misdiagnosed as other physical or neurological disorders, including cerebral palsy, which strokes can cause.

To support research and awareness, the Rose family has launched its own charity, Mini-Miracles, and plans a benefit cruise-in June 30 in Jerome. This year’s cruise-in will benefit CHSA and another family whose baby has a brain disorder.

Over the past two years, the group has donated $1,800 to Windber Hospice for its infant and pediatrics program.

Information about the event is on the web at www.facebook.com/MiniMiraclesBenefit.

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