When we think of someone having a stroke, we usually think of elderly people. But one mum was left traumatised after her newborn baby had a stroke in her arms.
Emma Winwood suffered high blood pressure towards the end of her pregnancy and by 37 weeks, the doctors at Good Hope Hospital in Birmingham decided to induce her, but she was rushed in for an emergency c-section when doctors discovered her baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck.
‘They worked on him and eventually he started to cry. At that point, we thought we were all good,’ Emma said.
‘He was out, I was being stitched up. I was fine, I’d got my boy, we were all OK.’
At first, everything seemed fine. Emma held her baby boy, Harry, and dad, Luke, left to tell family members his name and gender.
But 90 minutes later, things took a turn for the worse.
‘He was in my arms and I remember my mum cooing over him and saying ‘How much do you love him?’ as we stared at this perfect baby,’ Emma said.
‘But I looked at him and I said “Mum, he’s turning blue.”
‘Luke came back in and my mum asked him to grab the doctors.
‘I remember the doctor coming in and examining Harry at the end of my bed and his little arms were just flopping down.
‘As soon as they took him off he started having seizures.
‘Nobody knew what was going on. He had to be revived four times and still they didn’t know what was happening.’
It turned out that Harry was having a paediatric stroke, which effect 400 children a year in the UK.
Doctors thought his traumatic birth in June 2016 had led to a clot forming, further starving his brain of oxygen, but it’s still not clear what exactly caused the stroke or why.
An MRI showed the left side of his brain had been severely damaged and, although he got better, Harry has been left with Cerebral Palsy, epilepsy, delayed development and something called ‘stroke arm’, which makes using his left arm difficult.
When he was two he developed ‘absence seizures’ which are followed by long periods of sleep and he also finds walking difficult.
Emma has now shared pictures showing what it looked like when Harry had a stroke in order to raise awareness of the symptoms for other parents.
‘I often wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t been holding him at the time,’ Emma said.
‘I’m so thankful that he was in my arms and I noticed him turning blue because my mum couldn’t see it.
‘I wish having a stroke hadn’t happened to Harry, but it did and if you met him you’d melt, because he is the most beautiful, kind boy.
‘Sometimes we have dark days with it but we just look at him and we’re so thankful he’s as amazing as he is.’
While doctors said he would never walk or talk, Harry does both and even attends SEN classes at a mainstream school.
‘I wouldn’t change Harry for the world, he’s amazing and has overcome every obstacle – everything they said he wouldn’t do he has done,’ Emma, of Great Barr, near Birmingham, said.
‘The hardest part is watching him be uncomfortable.
‘When he’s having those bad days, his head is hurting, his leg isnt working properly and he’s getting frustrated because he can’t do something, it’s tough.’
Juliet Bouverie OBE, chief executive at the Stroke Association, said: ‘Sadly, while it is very rare, babies can have a stroke in the womb or just after birth.
‘It’s not always possible to find out what caused a baby’s stroke; sometimes a blood clot can develop in the placenta, the mother or the baby and travel to the baby’s brain, causing stroke.
‘It’s possible that some babies and children are at a higher risk due to heart problems, infection in the mother or baby, and blood clotting disorders.
‘We need more research to find out why strokes happen in babies and what can be done to prevent them.
‘Very young children are still developing when stroke strikes, so the effects of stroke and brain injury may only emerge over time.
‘Children may take longer learning to walk or have problems with walking, like Harry.
‘Brain development continues throughout childhood and into young adulthood, so their need for support can also change over time.
‘Some parents tell us they worry that their baby’s stroke was their fault and while we know this is a natural reaction, you are not to blame for the very rare things that can cause a stroke.
‘Our charity has a special childhood stroke service and you can get help by ringing our helpline or visiting http://www.stroke.org.uk/childhood-stroke.’
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