When single mom Hayley Clark found her 10-year-old daughter collapsed on the bathroom floor, she never suspected that a stroke was the cause of her “healthy” daughter’s medical scare.
Gracie Whittick, 10, suffered a stroke on Sept. 26 as she was getting ready for school, her mom told South West News Service (SWNS), a British news agency.
"It was all completely out of the blue. There were no warning signs at all, she was fine before. She was getting ready for school and the next second she was on the floor,” she recalled.
"It happened in seconds. I thought she had fainted on the floor and I had to get her to come around. The right side of her face was drooping. She couldn’t lift her arms, move her arms or legs,” she continued, noting she immediately called an ambulance.
Doctors at Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn in Norfolk, England, later told confirmed a blood clot on the left side of Gracie’s brain had caused the stroke. The young girl underwent a three-hour surgery to remove 96 percent of the clot. It’s unclear at this time what caused the clot.
"The whole thing is really surreal. Doctors still don't know why it happened; she had a heart scan and that has come back as normal,” she said.
The stroke impacted the right side of her body. The 10-year-old, who is right-handed, now has trouble using her right arm. She’s also struggling with memory issues. She began walking again recently, but tires quickly and will sometimes resort to a wheelchair, her mother said.
"She keeps getting really confused and she is getting frustrated with it all,” she said.
“The whole thing is really surreal. To me, a stroke is an old people thing. It isn’t something that happens to a healthy 10-year-old girl,” Clark added, noting Gracie enjoys dancing and gymnastics.
Though relatively uncommon, pediatric strokes can and do occur. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, pediatric stroke affects an estimated 12 in 100,000 children under the age of 18. However, there may be more cases of pediatric stroke as it is “thought to be frequently undiagnosed or misdiagnosed,” says a 2011 medical review on pediatric stroke.
Children most at risk are those with sickle cell anemia or congenital heart defects and other conditions.
“Previously healthy children who are found to have hidden disorders such as narrow blood vessels or a tendency to form blood clots easily,” are also at risk, according to the hospital.
Gracie is expected to recover but will likely remain in the hospital for another six weeks, SWNS reported.
“She doesn't remember anything, I don't think she understands what happened. She is only 10,” Clark said. "It has been a shock to all of us. It has just been a hideous time. But she has been so lucky with this, it all could've been a lot worse."