When you think of stroke, what comes to mind?
Perhaps an elderly parent or grandparent, or maybe someone hospitalized for brain injury.
But you probably don’t associate stroke, the interruption of the blood supply to any part of the brain, with a baby or a child.
Chandra Whitfield, of Mesa, learned just a few months ago that her son, Joey, suffered a stroke in-utero.
At first, Joey was an easy going, happy, typical baby, welcomed by his parents and brother Daniel (3 ½).
But at around 8 weeks, Chandra began noticing a few things about Joey that seemed different from her experience the first time around with Daniel. She mentioned her concerns to Joey’s pediatrician at the next well check.
The doctor diagnosed Joey with tortocollis, which can occur while a baby grows in the womb if the muscles or blood supply to the fetus’ neck become injured.
He prescribed some stretching exercises and suggested that Chandra put toys on on Joey’s left side to encourage him to turn his head.
At his six month well check, he still didn’t seem to be using his left arm and hand – and Chandra decided to trust her “mommy gut” feeling that something wasn’t right.
She asked the pediatrician for a referral to a pediatric neurologist, just to rule out that anything was seriously wrong.
Finally, Chandra and her husband, Chris, received some tough news about their little boy.
Joey was diagnosed with left-sided hemiparesis (weakness on the left side of the body) due to a stroke in utero. An MRI followed and confirmed the diagnosis.
Since the diagnosis, Chandra says she feels “as if a fire has been ignited in me.” She began working to raise awareness about childhood stroke.
She and her family have walked in the Stroke Walk, a fundraising event.
She’s been selling purple awareness bracelets and donating the funds to the Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association (CHASA), she’s got plans for a website, and volunteers for CHASA.
Chandra also sent a letter to Governor Jan Brewer requesting that May 7 be declared “Childhood Stroke Awareness Day.” Here are Chandra and Joey on the day just a couple of weeks ago when they received the news that the request was granted, and more.
Arizona now joins several other states in declaring May as Childhood Stroke Awareness Month. CHASA hopes to build a grassroots effort to add more states to the list.
Joey is a year old now and doing well. He works with a physical and occupational therapist to help strengthen his left side. The testing and therapy will continue, but so will Chandra’s will to get the word out to others to raise awareness—and to grow a community. Because what Chandra says has helped the most is the connection she’s made with other parents of children who have suffered stroke in-utero.
Watch Chandra tell Joey’s story on RAK Video and hear from Dr. Jeremy Timothy, Pediatric Neurology, Cardon Children’s Medical Center about in-utero stroke.
You’ll see Joey motor around the RAK offices and take a snack break to show off the progress he’s making with his left side:
And, judging by the way Joey’s mom has rocketed to action to raise awareness about childhood stroke in just the past few months, I’m guessing the apple doesn’t fall so far from the tree.
For more information on Chandra’s quest, or to order a Childhood Stroke Awareness bracelet, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.