Adalie Fawkner was two days old when her parents noticed something unusual.
“It started off as a sort of rhythmical tapping which we were later told were seizures,” father Daniel said.
After being taken to the Mercy Hospital for Women in Melbourne, the first-time parents were told their daughter had suffered a perinatal stroke.
“We didn’t know babies could have strokes,” Daniel said.
Perinatal strokes are caused by blood clots and can occur from the middle of a pregnancy to the first month of a newborn’s life.
The medical team explained to Daniel and mother Lauren that because babies’ brains were still developing they were able to better recover from strokes than adults, and the likelihood of another stroke was extremely low.
“We were in a state of shock but it was a relief to know it wasn’t life-threatening because we were still at the stage that we thought we might lose her,” Daniel said.
Aged seven months, Adalie was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy, but her condition hasn’t halted her development.
“One of the big things for us was she was doing things at the right time, rolling over, crawling and walking,” Lauren said.
“She hasn’t let anything that’s happened to her slow her down. She’s got that determination in her personality because of what’s happened, she’s a tough little cookie.”
Now 13 months’ old, Adalie’s development has been assisted through regular appointments at Bendigo Health’s Victorian Paediatric Rehabilitation Service (VPRS) clinic.
Senior Physiotherapist with the Bendigo Health VPRS therapy team, Suzie Smith said the service can provide treatment to up to 10 children at any one time who have long-term developmental challenges due to childhood stroke.
She said instances of perinatal stroke were rare - roughly one in 3-4,000.
“It’s our job to support the family and the child by helping develop whatever skills they’re going to need during their childhood,” she said.
The VPRS has access to Bendigo Health physiotherapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, social workers and exercise physiologists and can support children until the age of 18.
Ms Smith said research surrounding childhood stroke, how they occur and long-term implications was limited when compared to adult stroke.
The Fawkners hope Adalie’s story will raise awareness of infant stroke, so other families can access support.
The Bendigo Health VPRS team will be taking part in the Will2Walk fundraiser for the Stroke Association of Victoria at Lake Weeroona on Friday to raise awareness of paediatric stroke.
The fundraiser will be inaugural event for the newly-formed Bendigo Stroke Support Centre.