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Stroke Survivor Up

Posted by on May. 24, 2010 at 6:53 AM
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 Stroke survivor up
Worcester Telegram
But I see him struggle to do what comes easily for most children." Elijah is a stroke survivor. Elijah is the rare child who has been diagnosed as suffering ...


Stroke survivor up
Child, 7, battles side effects in brain


Elijah Perkins, right, throws a ball to his twin brother, Joshua, while his sisters, from left, Rhiannon and Sierra, enjoy the sun. (T&G Staff Photos/PAUL KAPTEYN)




Seven-year-old boy Elijah Perkins with his mother, Dawn Marie Perkins, plays at the Balmer School playground in Whitinsville.

NORTHBRIDGE -  Like any other 7-year-old boy, Elijah Perkins likes to play baseball and spends a lot of time at the Balmer Elementary School playground with his three siblings.

But there are some things about Elijah that set him apart from his twin brother, Joshua, and other children.

Elijah has a tendency to walk on the balls of his feet. He has a weakness on the right side of his body. When he is stressed, his right hand will clench into a fist, and he will pull his arm to his chest. It was just last winter that he learned how to fit his fisted fingers into a glove.

"He can understand information coming in, but it can't go back out," said his mother, Dawn Marie Perkins. "He has a hard time organizing his thoughts, and with reading comprehension. To somebody who's not familiar with this, they don't see it. It can be frustrating at times; they don't see what's wrong with him. But I see him struggle to do what comes easily for most children."

Elijah is a stroke survivor. Elijah is the rare child who has been diagnosed as suffering a stroke, and even rarer still, he was diagnosed before he was born.

Strokes occur at the highest rate in infants who are younger than 1 month old, at a rate of about 1 in 4,000 live births, according to the Children's Hemiplegia and Stroke Association. For children between 1 and 18 years old, strokes occur in 11 out of 100,000 children. Strokes are more common in boys than girls and are fatal in 20 to 40 percent of children, according to the association.

Elijah and Joshua were Mrs. Perkins' second set of twins, preceded by her daughters, Sierra and Rhiannon, now 10. During her 26-week checkup, Mrs. Perkins learned that the ventricles in Elijah's brain were enlarged, and an ultrasound had shown Elijah was suffering hydrocephalus - a buildup of fluid on the brain. Mrs. Perkins was advised to see a pediatric neurosurgeon.

In the following days, Mrs. Perkins continued to feel that something was wrong. Her doctor admitted her to Brigham and Women's Hospital, where she was greeted by a team of eight doctors who checked for clotting disorders and other causes of hemorrhages. Mrs. Perkins was placed on bed rest until her delivery at 35 weeks, which was difficult with three young children - the twin girls and her oldest daughter, Kendra, now 18.

After Elijah and Joshua's birth, doctors continued to monitor the fluid on Elijah's brain and were able to pinpoint when the hemorrhage happened - two weeks before her admission to Brigham & Women's Hospital - but not what caused it.

"At best they told me he would have moderate cerebral palsy, but to expect severe cerebral palsy, that he would never walk, that he would have to be on a feeding tube, that he would need to communicate with a special device," Mrs. Perkins said.

A shunt was placed on Elijah's left side behind his ear to drain the fluid from his brain through a tube to his abdominal cavity. After he turned a year old, he was enrolled in a study to track his recovery.

Mrs. Perkins is active in the Children's Hemiplegia and Stroke Association, which is based in Texas. Founded in 1996, the association strives to support, educate and advocate for families of pediatric stroke victims, and to raise awareness in the medical community. To that end, the association is co-sponsoring the Neurobiology of Disease in Children Symposium in Providence this fall. The symposium will focus on cerebrovascular disease in children.

Mrs. Perkins began organizing small, local neighborhood walks to spread the association's message - "Kids Have Strokes Too!" - and this year organized a walk on Boston Common.

Mrs. Perkins said there are signs for parents to watch for, such as if the baby favors one side or shows an early hand preference. Older children may suffer seizures, have a weakness on one side of the body or experience severe headaches.

According to the association, there are several risk factors that can lead to strokes, including heart disease, sickle cell disease, metabolic disorders, vascular disorders and infections such as chicken pox. However, often a cause is not found.

"There's a lot of research and data regarding adult strokes, but we still don't know why Elijah had a stroke," Mrs. Perkins said.

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by on May. 24, 2010 at 6:53 AM
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