Chase: Stroke At Age 7, New Jersey
Monday, May 19th, 2014 was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, it was warm outside, and the school year was almost over. Sloane and I had picked up Mason from pre-school and we were waiting for Chase’s bus to arrive. He got off the bus, with a happy face, eager to tell me about his day (he loves school). As soon as we walked in the door, Chase began to do his homework. He then put on his karate outfit so we could make it to his 4:30pm class. Once he was dressed, he noticed all of the kids in our neighborhood playing outside. We decided to skip karate for the night and enjoy the warm evening.
We all headed outside. Chase was playing a casual game of soccer with about six other boys. Mason and Sloane were playing with their friends as well. I remember watching Chase and his friends running in and out of our neighbor’s house. They were snacking on nachos and cheese in between soccer games.
I was talking to some neighbors, when suddenly I heard “Chase, get up!” I turned around to see Chase lying on the grass and one of his friends was telling him to get up. I walked over to Chase and he was lying on the grass with his eyes wide open. I urged him to get up as well, but he wasn’t moving. I actually thought he was kidding around. Chase was staring at me, drooling out of the right side of his mouth, and completely unresponsive. I called 911 and they instructed me to lay him on his left side. He immediately vomited. Soon after, the ambulance arrived.
When we arrived at the pediatric emergency room of our local hospital and it was determined that Chase had a seizure. However, as each hour passed, he remained unresponsive and continued to vomit. I informed the doctor a number of times that something seemed strange about his face, but I was ignored. A CT Scan was ordered and the results came back normal.
My husband was in Pittsburgh when Chase collapsed. After driving six hours, he finally arrived at the ER. He immediately noticed that Chase was not moving his right side. Shortly after this realization, it was decided that a transfer to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was necessary. It was there that Chase had an MRI and the stroke was discovered. It was now Tuesday morning. Chase suffered the stroke around 5pm on Monday evening. He was 7 years old.
The stroke was massive. It was a left, middle cerebral artery stroke. Chase was admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). At this point, he was communicating with thumbs up or thumbs down. On Thursday morning, we were told that Chase had massive swelling in his brain and emergency surgery was needed. It would entail removing a portion of his skull to allow for his brain to swell. The skull would then be put back in at a later date. If he didn’t have the surgery, he would die.
Although the surgery went well, the doctors could not give us any indication as to what kind of life Chase would have. We had no idea if he would walk, talk, lift his head, or be able to eat on his own. Two days after the surgery, my sister and brother arrived. They urged me to get some fresh air. My husband and brother stayed with Chase, while my sister and I took a walk. Shortly after we left, Chase spoke for the first time. Yep, of course it was the moment I walked out the door! This was the start of Chase’s long recovery.
Chase began physical, occupational and speech therapies while still in the PICU. He still had no use of the entire right side of his body. Although he began talking, it was only a few words at a time. He remained in the PICU for two weeks and was then moved to the Neurology floor. A few days later, Chase was moved to The Seashore House, the Rehabilitation Unit at CHOP. It was here that Chase endured six hours a day of intense rehabilitation.
Chase was at CHOP from May 20th, 2014 – August 31st, 2014. During his time there, he had four surgeries, an infection from one of the surgeries, and a serious allergic reaction to medication. It was a crazy rollercoaster ride, but I’m happy to say that Chase walked out of the hospital on his own.
After Chase was released from the hospital, he resumed his full day therapy program at CHOP three days a week. The only difference was that we were able to come home at night. Chase completed this program a week before Halloween, and then went back to school.
It has now been five years since the stroke. Chase continues with weekly physical, occupational and speech therapies. He does personal training with his karate instructor and we bribe him to do at home exercises every day. He wears a brace on his right leg and has some use of his right arm and hand.
All in all, Chase is a very happy 12-year old kid. He continues to love anything that has to do with sports, is always interested in history and is an avid reader. The ongoing support from Chase’s school, our family and all of Chase’s incredible friends have definitely aided in his recovery.
The cause of Chase’s stroke remains unknown. He had no symptoms beforehand. When the stroke occurred, my husband and I were the ones to notice two of the main symptoms: face drooping and paralysis. Not a day goes by without me wondering why the initial medical professionals didn’t recognize these symptoms.
As May is Pediatric Stroke Awareness Month, I am hopeful that sharing Chase’s story will raise awareness and save the life of another child.
Help us #MakeMayMatter for kids impacted by stroke! Share this story and #BeAVoice for pediatric stroke.