Rewarding the fast thinkers who save lives
Stroke survivors and their families are being honoured at the annual Life After Stroke Awards today
Esther and Stephen Hourigan: Esther will receive an award for saving Stephen’s life when he suffered a stroke at the age of 31.
Like most parents, Karen Le Blanc had never heard of childhood stroke until it hit her own family completely out of the blue when her three-year-old daughter suffered a massive stroke last year.
“Clara was only three and two months when she had the stroke. Before it happened, I had never heard of a child having a stroke and I am a medical scientist who had been working in Temple Street Children’s Hospital for a long time.”
When Clara awoke in their Howth home on August 19th, 2012, her mother noticed that her face had dropped and quickly realised that her speech was slurred and incoherent.
Immediately recognising the symptoms of stroke that she had seen on the Irish Heart Foundation’s Act FAST television ads, Karen rushed her daughter to Temple Street.
She and her husband, David, were told their little girl had suffered a catastrophic stroke and, unknown to them, it was not her first stroke. Tests showed Clara had a stroke in May 2012 which went unrecognised as she had no symptoms.
As a result of the second stroke, she lost her speech and all movement down her right side. She was a talkative child who had a huge vocabulary for her age, so losing her speech was heart-breaking for the family. She spent five weeks in Temple Street hospital and three months in the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire.
Chicken pox virus
“Clara had every test and procedure you can imagine and she rarely cried or complained. In fact, when she left Temple Street, one of the doctors bought her the book of the Disney movie Brave as she said it reminded her of Clara.”
It was eventually discovered Clara’s stroke had been caused by the chicken pox virus, which she had had four months previously. Happily, she has made a good recovery but has limited use of her right hand and a bad limp. She calls her hand and leg her “sleepy hand and leg” and is determined to wake them up. Just a year after her stroke, she started school in September with a special needs assistant for support and is coming on well.
Her mother was very proud when Clara calmly told a child who teased her in the playground for being slow that “when my sleepy hand and leg get better, I will be just as fast as you”.
“She is an inspiration. The only thing she complains about is that her smile is not like a princess’s any more as her mouth turns down. To me she is the most beautiful princess ever and truly deserving of this award.”
Clara will be presented with a Child of Courage award at today’s Annual Irish Heart Foundation Life After Stroke Awards. She is one of 11 stroke survivors who will receive awards at the event which is sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim and hosted by RTÉ broadcaster Marty Whelan in the Gibson Hotel.