Doctors warn of rise in strokes for children - WSMV News 4

Doctors warn of rise in strokes for children

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Doctors said strokes in children are becoming more and more common and parents need to know the warning signs.

Sarah Heacock - a healthy, athletic high school student - said she was working on a senior project when she started feeling dizzy.

"I was trying to read the assignment, but I couldn't. My eyes just wouldn't focus," she said.

A few hours later, the 18-year-old suddenly forgot the password to her computer, and her vision became so poor it was difficult to type.

"I couldn't see the keyboard, and I was putting it up to my face," Heacock said.

Then, the teen tried getting up from the computer.

"And I fell over," she said.

Her mom, a physical therapist, first thought her daughter's symptoms were related to a cold.

"We thought because she had a cold it's probably an ear infection," mother Nancy Darr said.

But during a doctor visit the next morning, her pediatrician said Heacock should go to a hospital.

There, doctors performed an MRI and found it wasn't a cold that had caused the teen's problems. She had had a stroke.

"It crossed my mind, 'is it a stroke?' I thought, 'no it can't be cant be,'" Darr said.

Dr. Lori Jordan, director of the pediatric stroke program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said child stroke is more common now than ever before.

"The most common reaction is, 'I didn't know children have strokes,'" she said. "It's about as common as a child having a brain tumor."

Newborn infants and teens like Heacock are the most at risk.

Symptoms of a stroke and effects on the body are the same for children as well as adults. Doctors said to look for difficulty speaking, drooping of the face or sudden weakness, usually on one side of the body.

But where adults typically suffer stroke because of high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, in children congenital heart disease is the number one cause of stroke.

Doctors found Heacock's stroke was caused by an undetected hole in her heart and triggered by the cold she had.

"She is extremely lucky. The area of the stroke is frequently fatal," Darr said.

Sarah Heacock's stroke was minor, and she has since made a full recovery. Doctors said if you see symptoms of a stroke, to seek immediate medical attention.

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