'It Really Can Happen To Anyone.' Boy Recovers after Suffering a Stroke at Age 4.
By Ashley Parrott
In August 2017, Ethan was playing tag with his cousins around the house when he fell. His mom, Lauren Findley, kept asking him what was wrong, but after a few minutes of coaxing, she and her husband quickly realized Ethan needed to go to the emergency department. Their 4-year-old son was showing symptoms of a stroke.
“We kept asking what was wrong and he told us he had sand all over his body and that he felt sandy,” Lauren said.” It took us a few minutes to realize he was trying to tell us he was numb, and the reason he wasn’t standing up was because he couldn’t.”
Ethan was taken by his parents to the Emergency Department at Cook Children’s Medical Center, where they were met by physicians to begin stroke protocol. He was rushed to an MRI, which confirmed Ethan sustained a stroke in the motor skills area of his brain.
Ethan could not use his right arm or hand, lost his ability to walk and lost his eye sight for a short period of time. Ethan remained in the neuro and rehab units for nearly a month, working to relearn the basic abilities his stroke had taken from him.
Ethan slowly began to make strides in all of his therapies, and now three years later, plays soccer and basketball. His parents are taking it all in, and appreciating everything Ethan has accomplished so quickly.
“It just really makes me extra grateful for every little milestone,” Lauren said. “A few weeks ago he learned to ride his bike without training wheels, and it was very special. We trusted in God, and our friends and family really came around to support us.”
While most people are unaware of strokes in children, kids can even experience strokes with no family history. Approximately six to 10 in 100,000 children are affected by stroke.
“It was definitely a shock. First of all, I didn’t know a kid could get a stroke. We didn’t understand or know much about it,” Lauren said. “Time matters for strokes in kids too. Our families don’t have a history of stroke and it really can happen to anyone.”
While the Findleys may not have been aware children could experience strokes, their quick reaction gave Ethan a chance to recover. Implemented in 2019 after Ethan’s experience, the stroke protocol in the Emergency Department is able to determine symptoms and begin treatment within minutes of arrival.
“Well-coordinated efforts to evaluate kids for stroke is required to do this as fast as possible. We need to get the information needed in order to have the treatment team poised and ready to react appropriately once the stroke is confirmed,” Dr. Acosta said. “We have accomplished this at Cook Children’s by implementing a ‘stroke alert’ protocol for the hospital. This is an accomplishment that requires the cooperation of over 15 departments to make this possible and is another sign of dedication and commitment of the staff to make this a reality.”
Be FAST to recognize the signs of Pediatric Stroke
People rarely think of children as being at risk for stroke. But the truth is, strokes can happen to people of all ages, even to babies in the womb. For children especially, strokes are oftentimes related to bleeding and clotting disorders.
Cook Children’s Stroke and Thrombosis Program co-directors Marcela Torres, M.D., Medical Director, Hematology Program, and Fernando Acosta Jr., M.D., Neurology, speak throughout the country trying to raise awareness of pediatric stroke.
"And when we talk to the physicians prior to the lectures, they are surprised about our subject and often ask ‘do kids have strokes?’, Dr. Acosta said. “Kids have strokes. We want to raise awareness so that we can continue to improve our recognition, which will translate to improved diagnosis and management of kids with stroke.”
Know the warning signs of a stroke by remembering 'B.E.F.A.S.T.'
B- Balance Loss
E- Eyesight Changes
F- Face Drooping
A- Arm Weakness
S- Speech Difficulty
T- Time to Call 911
People rarely think of children as being at risk for stroke. But the truth is, strokes can happen to people of all ages, even to babies in the womb. For children especially, strokes can be related to bleeding and clotting disorders. Approximately six to 10 in 100,000 children are affected by stroke. Because the causes and symptoms are so different from adult stroke, treating stroke in children requires specialized training. At Cook Children's, we have developed the Stroke and Thrombosis Program, comprised of a team of specialists whose primary goal is to help children recover from a stroke and/or thrombotic disease, as well as prevent future strokes. Our program offers specialized treatment starting in the emergency room and ongoing care throughout the child's recovery.
To learn more about the program, click here.