Childhood stroke is rare but dangerous; here's what to look out for

Childhood stroke is not common, but it can be dangerous, even deadly. It happens when tangled blood vessels in the brain cause a stroke. One family, who is grateful for their child's survival, wants other parents to know what signs to look out for.

A year ago, the Christie family gathered around the dinner table when 10-year-old Neal started acting strangely.

His father, Amish Christie, said, "Neal says 'Mom, I don't want to eat, I don't feel good.'"

Neal's mother, Twinkal Christie, said she noticed slurred speech and her son kept saying he was numb. They couldn't believe what the 911 operator was telling them.

"Your son is having a stroke," Twinkal Christie said.

Neal had an arteriovenous fistula similar to arteriovenous malformation but without the tangle of abnormal blood vessels connecting arteries and veins in the brain.

"We were able to stabilize Neal and get him to the operating room quickly, to do a craniotomy, evacuate hemorrhage, and stop the bleeding," Dr. Christopher Gegg with Nemours Children's Hospital said.

After being kept in a coma for 10 days in the ICU, Neal was finally sent home after two months and two surgeries.

"I don't need any more canes, I don't need any assistance with walking, so that's one thing that's already improved. Another thing is putting on my brace by myself," Neal said.

Neal has even learned to play video games one-handed with this older sister and is improving every day. Doctors want other parents to know the symptoms to watch for -- such as sudden headaches, numbness, vision loss or slurred speech. And listen to your instincts if something seems off.

"Ask further questions, to assess, do they need to be seen by a doctor?" Neal's mother said.

Neal's mom says he should regain 80% of his normal functioning with continued physical therapy.
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