LAST Saturday May 7 was Paediatric Stroke Awareness Day and Galashiels mum Julie Stephenson wants to raise awareness of symptoms and make everyone aware that strokes can affect children of any age as she knows only too well.

This is her and Aaron’s store

“It was a glorious sunny day on 16th June 2020 we had gone to Coldingham Bay beach near Eyemouth. We decided to do a costal walk from there to Eyemouth around 30min walk.

“We were about halfway there when we saw a swan in the rock pools and went over to see it and have a look in the rock pools for living crabs. We were soon climbing the rocks and my nine-year-old son Aaron said his tongue felt numb and his speech sounded funny.

“I’m a nurse so instantaneously I thought anaphylaxis. However this did not seem to be the case. I was racking my brain trying to find out what it could be.

“The numbness settled and Aaron decided he wanted to continue on our walk. Just as we got to the outskirts of Eyemouth Aaron dropped his water bottle and had another numb tongue again lasting a few minutes. He became hysterical and I calmly reassured him it would be ok and if we could just walk another few minutes we would get to a bank and I’d order a taxi. I thought by this time he needed something to eat and drink to rule out anything like diabetes.

“I got some money from the cash machine and we got some food from the local co-op.  I called for a taxi and explained we needed a taxi as soon as possible we were told it would be around 10 minutes. We sat on a seafront bench eating our food, Aaron sandwich fell out his hand and a seagull swooped it up,

“He then ate some chocolate then stated he was having another episode of a numb tongue. The chocolate was running down his chin, he almost slid of the bench but luckily I caught him. Aaron was so hysterical and hard to console by this point. In my mind I was thinking stroke by this point but how could it be children don’t have strokes.

“Just then the taxi arrived we explained the urgency of getting back to our Motorhome at Coldinham bay. Once we arrived I said to my husband (John) that we had to take him to A&E.

“As we were between the Borders General Hospital and the Edinburgh Sick Kids I opted for my husband to drive us to the Borders as it would be easier to get things from home rather than a 45 minute drive to Edinburgh from our home in Galashiels.

“Once we arrived at A&E I  explained to the receptionist it was like he had a stroke. We were told to take a seat and that they were very busy.

Border Telegraph: Aaron back on the rugby pitchAaron back on the rugby pitch

“30min went by and a nurse called me over to ask some additional questions. We were sitting for about another hour and I decided to go and ask the receptionist how long the wait was. She stated they were busier than usual and I was looking at more than 4hr wait time. I explained the urgency and it seemed like it was a stroke.

“She spoke to a nurse who then told her to phone the paediatric ward to see if they could see him sooner. We were in luck we were advised to go straight up.

“We arrived at the ward and a lovely advanced nurse practitioner came to see him. She checked him over and his vital signs were within normal limits.

“I explained that I thought he had stroke like symptoms but how could it be he was a child. I explained he had previously on the past two consecutive days had tingling in his hand which came and went but I had taken this to be playing on his switch too long.

“The advanced nurse practitioner was as stumped as me and went to call the consultant on call. The advanced nurse practitioner did some neurological observation and tested his strength. This was all normal. She asked if he has another episode could I record it.

“We are then told he would be staying overnight and the consultant would see us in the morning. The following day we saw the consultant and he did more neurological observations, checking his strengths. We were told he would go for a brain scan but it may not be until the Monday.

“Aaron became a little unwell. His heart rate was over 200bmp then would instantaneously drop below 50bpm within the blink of an eye.

“He was then put on cardiac monitoring. More blood tests taken. Aaron by this point said “mummy am I going to die, I don’t want to die” My eyes filled up my heart missed a beat, I reassured him he wasn’t going to die and held him tightly in my arms.

“I didn’t know what was going on and the doctors didn’t have the answers by this point. Aaron was to now have a heart Echo to see what was going on.

Border Telegraph: Aaron in hospitalAaron in hospital

“The consultant by this point was in touch with vascular, haematology, cardiologists, rheumatologist, ophthalmologists, neurologists, virologists up and down the country trying to figure out what was going on with him.

“Blood samples were sent all over the county to be tested from Aberdeen to Edinburgh, Great Ormond Street.

“We still didn’t have answers to what they thought it was. On the Wednesday he had a CT scan then on the Friday that week the consultant came in with a student nurse. Being a nurse a Knew straight away it was bad news.

“The consultant told me that Aaron had had a stroke. He stated that they could see three  infarcts on the brain which coincided with the three episodes he had and they found a narrowing in middle cerebral artery. 

“My heart sunk but we had a diagnosis. As Aaron had chickenpox at the beginning of December 2019 they could not find any other cause of the stroke therefore his stroke was caused by chickenpox.

“The consultant explained Aaron would need a lumber puncture and a two week dose of anti-viral intravenous medication which would require him to stay in hospital for.

Aaron within himself had no weakness in his limbs, however I did start noticing that his words were mumbled and that things he was trying to say didn’t come out right.

“Aaron has since had the lumber puncture and anti-viral medication. He had two further episodes in November 2020 and has had four MRI to date which show no new infarcts, but the narrowing of the right cerebral artery still remains narrowed.

Aaron is now on aspirin for the rest of his life and as a family we are now more aware of childhood strokes but are more wary of him getting cut. It’s like being on the edge of a cliff this past year as he is still high risk of having another stroke within the first year.

His aspirin has been increased to full adult dose and with guidance from Great Ormond Street we are still awaiting an Aspirin tolerance test and another heart ECHO.

“Aaron today is back to his normal self, playing for Galashiels Mini Maroons where he is thriving and back living life to the fullest.

“His memory can be fuzzy but overall I think had I not been a nurse and caught this early Aaron may have been left with weaknesses in his limbs or worse.

“Aaron is fully aware of the importance of telling someone if he has any headaches, numbness or tingling sensations.

“My advice to families is stroke can happen at any age. Known the signs and get treatment fast I just want people to be aware. Knowledge is the key.”