Girl, 3, suffers Stroke & brain injury following chicken pox

When Emily Burgess started complaining that her arm hurt and she could not get up, her mother had no idea what was wrong.

It was not until Emily, from Eltham, had an MRI scan that the problem was diagnosed — she had suffered a stroke. Her mother, Virginia, said: “I was completely shocked when I was told the news. I hadn’t even realised that children could have strokes.” Of Emily’s symptoms, she said: “If she had been 50 rather than three, I would have thought: ‘It’s a stroke’.” Doctors initially failed to diagnose Emily’s brain injury and it was picked up only when she was referred for an MRI scan at Evelina London children’s hospital. Emily, now five, spent nine days in hospital. The stroke happened six weeks after she had chicken pox, which is likely to have been the cause. She has a twin, Peter, and a seven-year-old brother, Thomas. Mrs Burgess said: “It was a bewildering time for her — she had never slept apart from her twin brother, Peter, before and she was also having to get used to the fact that she couldn’t use her right arm.” Mrs Burgess is marking the second birthday of the Child Stroke Project, a unique collaboration between Evelina London and the Stroke Association and which has helped more than 140 families. She said the project had provided invaluable support. It helped to organise therapy sessions and explain the condition to Emily’s teachers. Emily sees a neurologist at Evelina London every six months and takes an aspirin every day to prevent blood clots. She has regained use of her right arm, but has become left-handed. Anne Gordon, consultant occupational therapist at Evelina London, said: “There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a child who’s had a stroke learning to adapt and going on to reach their full potential.” Anna Panton, project manager at the Stroke Association and part of the Evelina London team, said: “Many people think strokes only happen to older people, so a stroke in a baby or child can come as a shock. Around 400 childhood strokes occur in the UK each year.”
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