Little Leo bounces back to health after stroke
WHEN Niamh Garry's 16-month-old son Leo woke up earlier than usual one morning she knew there was something seriously wrong -- but she never imagined it could be a stroke.
The toddler had enjoyed a normal Sunday at the end of last June but became unsettled during the night.
"At about 6.30 he woke up and I knew he wasn't right," recalled Ms Garry.
"He was very lethargic and he was limp. I knew straight away that it was an ambulance job.
"I kind of knew it was bad (because) they put us in a family room. I think I asked them if he was going to die because I had no experience with strokes."
Leo, now 21 months, from Ashbourne, in Co Meath, was just one of 10 people honoured as stroke victims at the Irish Heart Foundation's 'Life After Stroke Awards' in the Burlington Hotel, Dublin, yesterday.
Leo's condition was a complication of chicken pox -- an extremely rare development -- and led to his being paralysed down the left-hand side of his body.
After undergoing tests they were satisfied it was a stroke. Luckily, he bounced back after just five weeks in hospital.
"He started to recover very quickly; within two or three days he was standing again and he left Temple Street perfect," said his mother.
"I don't know if you can ever be over it because it's a brain injury but he doesn't have any lingering effects at the moment.
"He is perfect but they (his medical team) will keep watching him."
He also received occupational therapy in hospital and will be monitored by Enable Ireland over the coming years but he has not required physiotherapy. There are no statistics available on the rate of strokes in young children, although the tell-tale signs are much the same as those in adults -- face fallen to one side, being unable to keep arms raised in the air and slurred speech.
Leo's story shows that strokes can hit anybody at any time.
"My symptoms began on a Friday. First it was blurred vision but I thought it might have been something in my eye," said 33-year-old Rachael Ahern who suffered one five years ago.
A few days later she felt a tingling on the left-hand side of her body.
Then she began to drag her leg and couldn't use her left arm properly.
Eventually her face dropped on one side.
"That was the point where I understood that something was seriously wrong and at that point I was put on a trolley in A&E. By the end of the evening I was paralysed down my left side."
In the middle of her physical breakdown, her boyfriend Aidan proposed to her in hospital.
"You are faced with the situation that you may never walk again and they prepare you for the worst," said Ms Ahern.
"So when Aidan proposed he didn't even know if I would walk again; he was a brave man, a good man. I knew he wasn't lying when he said in sickness and in health."
'Fair City' star Jim Bartley, who suffered a stroke last June, was on hand to present an award at yesterday's ceremony.
"I was reading scripts when the stroke happened," he said.
"I started to get a strange feeling, it just came over me. My right arm started to go numb from my wrist to the bicep. And when I tried to read, the letters kept jumping on the page."
For more information on the condition and on the Act FAST campaign, go to www.stroke.ie.