Strokes risk for elderly, some children too

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- May is stroke awareness month, and for most of us when we think of stroke we think of someone older being affected.

Surprisingly, stroke can affect anyone, even the smallest children, without heart problems or much warning.

In fact, Monday is pediatric stroke awareness day, and one Knoxville family wants their story to serve as a message of awareness to everyone.

Every week you can find 10-year-old Andrew Franklin kicking and punching as he masters the art of Kung Fu.

But his lessons aren't just about a having a new hobby or learning martial arts.

Kung Fu instructor Daniel Mattson says, "Even days when he's crying i don't let him stop. i tell him he has to do more."

Kung Fu is giving him his mobility back.

Andrew's mother Kristi Franklin says, "It was a slow process until he started Kung Fu. Once Daniel started it's been amazing what he's been able to recover."

What Andrew has had to endure is the true definition of "beating all odds".

Kristi Franklin says, "He couldn't focus, nothing. I said andrew what is wrong and he was just looking through me and he stopped crying and I laid him down and he whimpered and then he vomited."

Andrew was rushed to Children's Hopsital, and after hours of testing, doctors ruled out several major issues.

Kristi says, "I remember the doctor coming in and saying the good news is he didn't have a stroke, he doesn't have a tumor, and we didn't see issues with bleeding"

In an effort to find out exactly what happened, and an EEG and an MRI were performed. That's when they discovered he was indeed one of the three-out-of-100,000 children that suffers from a stroke each year.

Specifically an ascemic stroke. That's when a blood clot is lodged into the artery of the brain that controls movement and speech.

In this case time was imperative, so interventinal radiologist Dr. Keith Woodward was called out of major surgery to review Andrew's case.

The problem is he had never performed this procedure on a child.

In fact, it's so rare that a child would suffer this kind of stroke, Dr. Woodward ran into one challenge after another.

He says, "All devises to remove a clot from the brain are made for adults and the arteries in adults are two times the size of Andrew, so i wasn't able to use a lot of the devises I would normally use, so I was pushing the limits of technology to get this done."

Without hesitation Dr. Woodward performed the surgery using the smallest catheters and balloons to successfully re-open the artery.

Andrew's mom says, :I just knew he was going to be okay. God told my heart he was."

After spending some time in ICU, Andrew was allowed to return home.

However, life was very different. Kristi says, "He had to learn everything again. His brain had to create a new pathway to get in for out."

After months of rehab, Andrew could walk, talk, and had much of his mobility back.

But it appeared he had reached his max, until January, when he started Kung Fu.

His instructor Daniel says, "He can hold a hit to level height, keep it up longer and with his right leg he can kick straight."

While the reason for Andrew's stroke is still an absolute mystery, Andrew's Mom Kristi knows her mission, and plans on using Andrew's story to make sure to get that message out.

"I feel this happened for a reason. He is healthy and I think God for this gift."

Dr. Woodward has since had one other patient with the same diagnosis as Andrew, but the child sadly passed away 3 days after the stroke.

Symptoms for a stroke can widely vary, especially in children.

If you would like to learn more about stroke in general and specifically pediatric stroke, log onto our web channel and click on the Hot Key.

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