Photographer and mom Micah Simmons is speaking out about a little-known affliction I'll admit that even as a soon-to-be mom-of-four myself, I had no idea was a potential risk for both babies in the womb and young kids: pediatric stroke. "Many don't know this, but two of my three [kids] had strokes in utero," Simmons, who is also expecting a fourth child, told Parents.com.
"Most know that my son Logan [had a stroke], as he has seriously long-lasting damage," she continued. "He has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, serious cognitive delays, etc. Alyssa, my middle daughter, had three small strokes that caused some eye damage, but other than that no residual side effects."
In honor of this month being Pediatric Stroke Awareness Month, Simmons took photos of her kids to raise the visibility of this condition.
"This happens SO often!" Simmons told us, and indeed, as the National Stroke Association notes, a stroke can happen at any age, at any time. In fact, stroke is among the top 10 causes of death in children, and the majority of pediatric strokes occur during the perinatal period, which is the time period between the last 18 weeks of pregnancy and the first 30 days after birth.
"I actually had a gut-wrenching feeling at 35 weeks with Logan," Simmons told us. "I just knew something was wrong. He was my first, and he suffered the most brain damage by far. He now has severe long-lasting effects."
She added, "At the time, the doctor didn't trust my gut. She thought I was just a first-time mom and worrying. Finally, 14 days later, they delivered [him] via emergency C-section." The doctors would soon diagnose Logan as having suffered a stroke.
"With Alyssa, my middle daughter, at 36 weeks and five days I called my doctor and told her I had a bad feeling. I knew to my core she'd had strokes. My doctor trusted me and delivered me that day. Alyssa had three minor strokes. She has no residual side effects, minus her vision which is corrected with glasses," Simmons said.
"To be honest I had NO clue that strokes could happen in utero, which is what happened with them, or in children at all," Simmons ultimately admitted. "It was terrifying." She hopes that by raising awareness, more parents can learn about what she calls an "untalked about and so unknown" condition. And for that, we thank her.
The most important for parents to remember are the signs of stroke. The acronym FAST can help: "F" is for face, one side of which can droop during a stroke. "A" stands for arms; one can drift downward. "S" is for speech, which can become slurred. And "T" is for time, because it's of the essence. If you suspect your child, or anyone else, is having a stroke, you should call 911 immediately.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and soon-to-be mom of 4. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.