Every year when the 23rd of November comes around I get all tingly. Not in a warm fuzzy way but in a yuk,sweaty dreading kind of way. On November 23rd 2003 my 20 month old daughter, Violet, suffered a stroke
.There was no warning and no reason behind it.
Violet had a fever for 36 hours that I just couldn't keep under control - a visit to a doctor assured me that there was no visible infection (ears or throat)and to keep on doing what we were doing - which was administering nurofen as prescribed. That night my very upset and frazzled daughter woke up screaming and still hot so I brought her into our bed. This was something that we had never done before as Violet was always such a good sleeper and she always slept in her cot.
The next morning at 6.30am I awoke to look at a very still,listless child lying next to me - her eyes wide open, blinking but she wouldn't move.I noticed a large pile of phlegm in front of her mouth. I knew immediately something was wrong - the look in her eyes was frightening.I woke my husband straight away and we both tried to rouse her but she still wouldn't move.My husband picked up her listless body and she just hung from him.I called and ambulance and managed to get out that my child wasn't moving,she was awake and breathing but wasn't responding to anything. By the time I put on some pants and headed down stairs an ambulance had arrived. I was trying to explain to them what was going on but my words were jumbled and I my voice was breaking. The paramedic sternly told me to calm down and not to panic.Everything was going to be fine.I was embarrassed that I had been told off - everything was going to be fine - I needed to get it together. Another ambulance arrived and after a short discussion and after an initial exam of Violet (temperature,blood pressure,checking pulse etc) the decision was made to take her into the Royal Childrens Hospital
. She was to lay on me on the stretcher whilst Will,her dad followed in the car. The new paramedic was alot more gentle and compassionate.He explained to me that it was common for children to have a febrile convulsion
because of their temperature and it had probably knocked the wind out of her. I began to relax a little,just a little. We were seen straight away by the emergency doctors and as Violet was layed on the bad she started to have a seizure - this wasn't visible to me but her teeth were clamped together and her body was tensed. She was given Valium which stopped the seizure but caused her to stop breathing on her own - they had to "bag" her and put on a mask that would breath for her.My husband and I were in shock - I was talking to her because that is what the doctors kept telling me to do but I can't remember what I said. I couldn't stop crying and it felt like I was watching a movie - this isn't my cheeky 20 month year old daughter who is full of life and spunk. Who is this lifeless child on the bed? The situation was surreal. Violet started to breath on her own and we were sent to a cubicle.
After more tests a doctor came and told us that it was a more then likely a febrile convulsion and she just needed to rest and get over it - she was probably exhausted. He wasn't sure about admitting us - there were no beds. We were about to go home and then they found a bed and decided to do a catscan just to be on the safe side. Will and I began to relax and the relief we felt was better than winning tattslotto.
Our girl was going to be ok.
By this time some family had arrived and were sitting with us and our still very listless daughter,in her tiny cubicle in the hospital. A doctor came in and shut the curtains and told us that something had shown up in the catscan. I had Violet in my arms,sleeping,still hot and still with a very high temperature.
"Violet has had a stroke." the doctor said.
I didn't say anything but in my mind I was screaming no no no no.
The technical terms started to baffle me - we were told that had really no idea of how much damage was done. She more than likely would have to re-learn to walk and talk and use the right side of her body.The stroke was on the left side of her brain.
what what what - where was my girl? I want my girl back? This isn't happening to us - this is not allowed to happen to us.But it did.
We cancelled everything and met with neurologists,haematologists and physios.Speech therapists,occupational therapists were also at our disposal. Where is my girl gone?? Is this it?? What is her life going to be like now? Will her friends progress on without her? There were so many questions - way too many to write. Unfortunately no answers.
I was trying to get my head around that she couldn't walk and talk.Then she said "hi daddy" We all cried with joy. Two days later she took two steps. We cried again. I hated seeing other children because my bitterness about them being healthy was over-whelming. That was also accompanied by great guilt for feeling like that. I made arrangements for Violet to be in hospital for six- eight weeks.
There were so may needles and tests we lost count. We pinned her down and tried to distract her with Elmo. .Oh Elmo
. He made my daughters life a little easier back then. In fact friends brought in all their childrens Elmo toys.
There was a lumbar puncture, A heart echo and ECG. There was an MRI and daily trips to physio and speech therapy.
Day three Violet took 12 steps and started to say a few words. Violet couldn't move her right arm but her right leg started to function.
Day four Violet walked,unassisted and straight down the hall of her ward.
The doctors said that maybe she could go home in a couple of weeks - her progress was amazing.They couldn't explain it.
Friends brought in gifts that said the world - sandwiches for lunch,chocolate rum balls to munch on and toys to fill a toy shop.Fast forward to day seven and Violet was discharged
Her recovery was so amazing the doctors couldn't explain it. Violet was walking and talking and although her right side was limp she was ready to get back to life as she knew it.
the next months were filled with weekly physios and appointments with specialists that I don't care to re call. There were specific games we had to play with her to help her regain her strength in her right side. The visits to the Royal Children's hospital were totally draining because of the sad stories that surrounded you. And the guilt that enveloped you because my daughter was getting well. I learned that that was a luxury.
I learnt so much through this time - from things about living and things about what is important. So cliche, I know but very true.
Fast forward to three years on.
Violet has slight numbness on the right side of her mouth - that is it! Her fine motor skills are great and her gross motor skills are perfect. Violet went back to creche two weeks after her stroke and has never looked back. She re-learned to walk and talk ( oh talk talk talk) and now uses her left hand instead of her right. Violet is off to school next year. My gorgeous ,cheeky,fun loving girl is living life like any other little girl.
Although the 23rd of November is still a day I do dread I also realise that we are very lucky to have got through the other side of Violets stroke.