Fort Worth, Texas,
03
June
2014
|
08:18 PM
America/Chicago

A stroke at birth

The first of a four-part series

Six years ago, my life changed forever...

At that time, I was completing my postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric neuropsychology. I also became pregnant with my first child. Because I had some "inside" information about a few hospitals in the area after having worked in them, although a little farther from my home, I chose to deliver at a hospital with a competent staff and top-notch facilities -- a decision that likely saved my son's life and possibly my own. While in labor, I suddenly went into distress, and my son was quickly delivered via cesarean section. He was whisked away to the NICU before I was even able to see him.

Those of us in pediatric neuropsychology know the hundreds of things that can go "wrong" with a child even before they are born, and the downside of that knowledge is that it can give us very specific things to worry about. However, like everyone else who has experienced a similar situation, I did not really think it would happen to me. But it did. 

My son had a stroke during birth, he needed a ventilator to breathe, and he developed seizures. Unlike parents who question the role that their healthcare providers may have played in their child's condition, understanding that my son's stroke could not have reasonably been predicted brings me peace. I also know that I did not do anything to cause my son's stroke. This is different than the mothers of some of my patients who question every insignificant thing they did or did not do during their pregnancy because it might have played some tiny role in their child's condition.

Although most parents remember their baby's weight and length, the more important information for me was his Apgar scores and the location and extent of brain damage I saw on his imaging. Unlike most people in my situation, I did not have to ask about the potential future outcomes. I had worked with children who had severe disabilities, and I knew it was possible that my son could emerge with significant challenges. However, I was probably less frustrated whenever I was told that his future level of functioning was uncertain.

Having been on the other side of that conversation, I knew it is often difficult to predict what will happen several years in the future, particularly while a child is very young. Although some doctors like to be optimistic about a child's prognosis, others prefer to provide a more pessimistic assessment so that the parents may be pleasantly surprised by their child's better-than-expected outcome. I agree that most people prefer a definitive answer, even if it is one that they dislike, but "I don't know" is often the most honest answer to a parent's question.  

 

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About the author

Carla Hearl Morton, Ph.D., is a pediatric neuropsychologist at Cook Children's. She is a licensed psychologist with expertise in how learning and behavior are connected to the development of a child's brain structures and systems. At Cook Children's, neuropsychologists work closely with a team of neurologists and neurosurgeons to provide the best treatments and interventions that meet the individual needs of each child.

Comments 1 - 10 (10)
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megan Gulliford
03
June
2014
I had a major stroke in the gray matter a week after my son leviwas born that was 3 years ago and ibam still in excessive therapy,afo still being worn etc
Sarah
04
June
2014
Thank you for helping to bring awareness to pediatric strokes. My daughter had at stroke (the result of a playground fall and TBI). She is now a Neurosciences patient at Cook Children's. Thank you for all you do to help our children.
diane atkins
12
June
2014
My son had an intrauterine stroke. He's now 6. Dr. Acosta at cook childrens is part of our "dream team" for whom we are very fortunate to have.
Ruth
12
June
2014
Thank you for this series! My daughter presented with seizures at 14 hours post birth and stopped breathing breathing twice. After many tests, it was determined that she had a stroke at that 14 hour mark. I had a very traumatic birth experience and I question a lot of things. I know we have no control over it, but it's still hard. Knock on wood, she has hit every milestone early. She will be 1 year old this month! I know she may still develop issues and she is at risk for seizures and vision issues in her future, but we try to remain positive that the outcome has been as good as it has so far!
Amber Conner
12
June
2014
I'm daughter also had a stroke at birth. She is doing wonderful and now is about to turn seven and has no resudle effects of the stroke.
Ruth
12
June
2014
Our now three-year old son had a stroke at birth. I have always wondered about the birth itself. I had an easy day. Then at 6 or 7 cm, I was in INCREDIBLE pain (all my births have been natural, this was my 4th). Then, I progressed in 15-25 minutes (cannot remember) to delivery. I know we cannot KNOW, but does a stroke occur because of sudden rapid delivery or did my body respond to his distress? Is there any research on this?
Regina Wagoner
12
June
2014
My son Brian is 23 now but suffered a stroke during birth as well. He is partially paralyzed on his left side and suffered seizures throughout his childhood. His doctor was Dr. Kelfer. When Brian turned 17, he underwent brain surgery by Dr. Donahue to remove the portion of his remaining right side of his brain that was causing his seizures. As of May 12 this year, Brian is seizure free and medicine free. He lives independently on his own and drives thanks to all the doctors at Cooks over the years. He does have some behavorial issues still today but he is learning how to cope with them much better than in his teenage years. Brian is on SSI and struggles to find a job because his physical disability is obvious when he goes for an interview. We call him "Bubba" and he is our miracle child!!!
Susan Wells
12
June
2014
Wow, That's a great story you son so cute ! " Thank you for sharing God bless you and your precious son!"
Emily
13
June
2014
9 years ago I had an AVM "stroke" and subsequent surgery to clip the vessels - it was determined to be a congenital condition. At the time, I was told that it was not hereditary and have since had two children. Recently, telling my story to random parents that are doctors and RN's (a couple of them from Cooks), I've gotten sideways looks and subtle comments about getting my kids "checked". My understanding was that my condition was like the "time bomb" that went off, but that there was no way to check for it and that there was no need since it was a random occurrence and non hereditary.. Is this true? I have no desire to subject my kiddos to an angiogram...
Linda Thomas
13
June
2014
My daughter was born at 28 weeks. She had a stroke 7 days after birth. Two weeks later the stroke had resolved. She has cerebral palsy, very mildly affected, with no cognitive delays. She graduated from high school this week. Thank you Cook's!