Strokes occur more often in babies and children than most parents know, and the effects can be devastating if not picked up or treated early enough.
Karmyn Krishna, 14-year-old Durban resident, was only 9 years old and averaging in the 90s at school, when a sudden stroke changed her and her family’s lives forever. Her mother Sashini describes how her daughter fainted in the family room and how immediately they rushed her to their local emergency room.
‘Because she was so young the doctors never for a second believed that she had had a stroke. So they treated her for everything else, including epilepsy
, missing a valuable opportunity to give her a drug called plavix which stops a stroke in its tracks,’ says Karmyn’s mom, who is furiously dedicated to educating people about the fact that strokes do not only happen to older people.
By the next morning the effects of the stroke had set in and done an incredible amount of damage to Karmyn’s brain. The young girl, who only 24 hours earlier was playing, talking and living her life to the fullest was now unable to move or even talk. ‘We were in complete shock, we didn’t understand how this could have happened,’ Sashini recalls.
As a family, it was disturbing to see how the world carried on around them, as if nothing was wrong, ‘Didn’t they know that our lives had fallen apart?’ the mother remembers wondering.
Determined not to give up, the family came together and decided that they would fight for their daughter. Sashini started off by spending almost every waking moment singing or reading to her daughter, despite the doctor’s assurances that it was a futile exercise.
‘We immediately built a wall around ourselves, not allowing anyone who was not hopeful about our daughter’s recovery into our space. If we could not cope or be positive, then how on earth could we expect our daughter to be?’
Months later, when Karmyn was taken for audio-psycho-phonetic training (a form of musical therapy), Sashini was told by the therapist that the best thing she did for her daughter was to sing to her, ‘It basically stopped her brain from dying, the music
wired new pathways in her brain.’A journey to rehab
Weeks later Karmyn was transferred out of hospital to a rehabilitation centre, and the family once more made a choice that was not in line with the doctor’s recommendations. ‘Karmyn became an outpatient and we travelled to the rehab every day, even when the doctors wanted her there full time. We wanted to get her back to living as normal a life as possible as quickly as possible.’
And when the nurses told Sashini to put adult nappies on her daughter who could not get to the toilet by herself, again the mother refused. ‘I carried her myself and even refused to sponge-bath her. I would sit with her in the bath to help her. It was important for us to preserve Karmyn’s spirit and dignity throughout this time.’
Aggressive therapy that included spending weeks in India with Dr Rajul Vasa a leading doctor and scientist who developed the Vasa form of physiotherapy, alternative interventions and leading life with complete discipline paid off for Karmyn. She returned to her school with her peers and is now achieving averages in the 60s, again despite advice to enrol her into a special needs school.
‘We never gave up, ever. We believed that our daughter was very capable, and with the love and support of my husband Devan, Karmyn’s sister Kamille, and my mother, we were able to defy the doctor’s prognosis that suggested we put our daughter in a home.’
A stroke was the very last condition that was considered when Karmyn was rushed into ER that fateful day 5 years ago, resulting in the loss of valuable time that could have made a difference in preventing further damage from the stroke. Find out more about strokes in children.
Have you experienced a medical emergency with your child?