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Stroke Knows No Age Limit

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Stroke is one of the leading killers of adults, but stroke can happen at any age and even before birth.

Amy Jones remembers each of her four children's births, but memories of Halla's arrival are especially vivid.

"I had a wonderful pregnancy with her and her birth was great," Jones said.

Everything changed 12 hours after Halla's birth. The newborn had seizures and stopped breathing.

"I was scared," Jone said. "I mean, I was terrified. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know why it was happening."

Halla was suffering a stroke.

"When they said stroke, I looked at my husband and he looked at me we looked at the doctor and they said, 'Yes, they do happen to children," Jones said.

Dr. Ana Felix, of University of North Carolina Hospitals, says stroke is a disease that does not pick ages.

Babies can have strokes from clotting problems in the womb or trauma during childbirth. They can also occur during childhood from brain injury or blood disorders, like sickle cell anemia.

Stroke in children is hard to diagnose and even tougher to treat.

"None of the treatments for adults are currently used in children, so we have a long way to go in treating childhood stroke," Felix said of children who have strokes.

Doctors use blood thinners to open blocked arteries and closely monitor patients.

"They may have trouble learning, they may have seizures, they may have weakness in one side," Felix said.

Fortunately, children usually recover faster and better than adults.

Halla is now 4 years old. Other than a brace she wears on her foot, her mother says you would never know she had a stroke.

"She's never let anything stop her," Jones said.

The Jones family feels fortunate that Halla's stroke was diagnosed so early. It often takes longer for newborns to be diagnosed, and usually by then, permanent damage has occurred.

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