One moment 7-year-old Chase Schweiger was kicking the soccer ball near his house with his friends. The next moment, his mates were standing over him, urging Chase to wake up as he lay lifeless on the ground.
At first, his mum, Wendy, thought the boys were just mucking around. However, when Chase didn’t get up right away, she rushed over to see what had happened. She noticed Chase’s face looked “strange” and that he couldn’t open his eyes.
‘Something seems strange’
Once he regained consciousness, he vomited. Wendy called for an ambulance and he was rushed to the hospital with a suspected seizure. However, something else about her little boy seemed wrong to Wendi.
Wendy told NBC TODAY,
I kept on saying to the doctor something seems strange about Chase’s face. He wasn’t talking. He was kind of moaning and making these weird sounds and he was awake.”
When Chase’s dad Jordan joined his family at the hospital, he also noticed his son wasn’t moving his right side, something the doctors hadn’t picked up on.
The local hospital transferred Chase to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and there Chase underwent scans to figure out what exactly had happened.
Your son had a stroke
His parents were soon informed that their energetic little boy had suffered a stroke after two blood clots blocked blood flow to the left side of his brain. There was no genetic reason or injuries that had caused it.
It did, however, cause the young boy a lot of damage.
[It damaged] the portions that control the speech and a lot of the motor skill on his right side. They were starting to look at what else was happening to him.”
During those first days, Chase was unable to talk. He could, however, give a thumbs up on his left side (the right side of the brain is responsible for the left side of the body).
They checked the swelling in his brain and it was starting to impinge upon the other side of his brain — to the point that it was going to start causing damage to the right side.”
‘He might just live this way’
To ease the pressure, doctors removed part of Chase’s skull. They also told his family that Chase might never be the same.
The comments at that point were, ‘He might just live this way.’ No speaking. He couldn’t keep his head up. He might not walk again.”
After 15 days in the ICU, he moved to the neurology floor before transferring to an inpatient rehabilitation facility. He began to say simple words like “yes” and began to work on his movements.
He had to wear a helmet. He was in a wheelchair. But they got him up and moving.”
Chase participated in therapy eight hours a day for three months. He had to relearn how to write – this time with his left hand as his right side was damaged.
He also had to come to terms with his new limitations.
But despite the setbacks, including having to replace his skull with a synthetic bone after it became infected, he continues to push forward and surprise his parents with his determination.
Chase is now a vibrant 15-year-old who loves his family and friends. He still has some weakness on his right side but that doesn’t stop him.
Signs and symptoms of stroke in children
Wendi and Jordan are sharing Chase’s story as a way to raise awareness for paediatric stroke and to encourage parents to familiarise themselves with the signs and symptoms.
Most people associate stroke with older people, not seven-year-olds. In fact, stroke is incredibly rare among children, with only two in every 100,000 children being affected worldwide each year.
It’s really become our mission to educate people that kids can have strokes too.”
Signs of stroke remain the same regardless of age and they spell out F-A-S-T.
- Facial drooping
- Arm weakness
- Speech problems
- Time to act
One issue with paediatric stroke is that often it’s hard to notice these signs, especially in younger children who may not have developed speech, such as a toddler.
However, immediate intervention is incredibly important when dealing with stroke recovery. According to Chase’s doctor, Dr Daniel Licht, the main treatment for stroke in children is to remove a clot causing the stroke, called a thrombectomy.
Every child’s capacity to compensate for brain injury, in general, especially stroke, seems to be closely tied to the child’s motivation, to the family’s motivation and to rehabilitation services,” he said.
In Chase’s case, his recovery has a lot to do with his pure motivation to speak and walk again.
Where to learn more
What to read next
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