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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is editor and publisher of the Stanstead Journal.
Posted 02.26.03
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Abby had a stoke

The kids laughed at first. Abby was a bit clumsy last Wednesday morning after she had awakened and had her good-morning bottle. Kept dropping her baby doll, falling down on her bum. Just sleepy this morning, we figured.

Soon we were all off to school and work, leaving Abby and mom. "Bye-bye," Abby said, waving as we left.

Within an hour, she could no longer stand up. Our 20-month-old had become as helpless and as limp as a newborn. She couldn't stay awake, and when she was, she cried. Her breathing wasn't right.

Deb got her over to the packed CLSC where we waited and worried. The doctor was stymied. He probably would have sent her home but because of her other health condition, tyrosinemia, he called ahead to the CHUS to tell them we were coming.

The health-care wheels had started turning.

We've seen a lot of the insides of hospitals since Abby was born. Deb and I have gotten to know how the system works. We hear the nightmare stories of waiting lists, surly workers, bungled bureaucracy. But we've seen that the system really does kick in when it has to, run by people who truly care.

The system kicked in but good for us last week as we were moved from the pediatric clinic to pediatric intensive care. Blood was taken, urine collected, and Abby's brain scanned. We waited and worried as she slept and cried. She was conscious but she wasn't there. Something was wrong.

The next morning, things seemed better. Abby was back - eating, walking, smiling. But the smile wasn't right. It drooped on the left side. And her left hand wasn't working.

"You know what it looks like? It looks like she had a stroke," I said to Deb.

And so it was.

After an MRI that afternoon, we learned that a clot had blocked an artery to the right side of Abby's brain. At first we weren't sure what could have caused this. It wasn't the tyrosinemia, which is a liver ailment.

We learned later that the cause was the chicken pox.

Abby had had the chicken pox just before Christmas. Not a bad bout, just the usual kid ailment. In fact, we were kind of glad to get it over with. The irony is that just before she broke out, Deb had booked a February appointment for a chicken pox vaccination.

Everyone thinks it's an innocuous disease. But in rare cases, the chicken pox virus can attack the blood vessels, forming lesions. The lesions cause clots, the clots cause strokes.

The chances of it happening, I read on the Net, are 1 in 13,000.

So we have one kid with two rare conditions. What's more, her very existence is a defiance of normally pretty stringent birth-control methods. We're going to start nicknaming her "Fluke" and sending her out to buy lottery tickets.

Abby came home from the CHUS yesterday, having been pampered for a week by some of the kindest nurses and checked over by some of the most compassionate pediatricians, neurologists, hematologists, and physiotherapists around. Helping to relieve the stress of the experience, all the doctors and residents spoke English - insisted on it, in fact, even though I said I was fine in French. (I was secretly relieved.)

Abby will be fine. We cross our fingers that there won't be a recurrence. There is also a risk of seizures as a result of the swelling on the brain. We experienced two of those in the hospital and don't want to experience them again. The focus now is on the physiotherapy. She can walk, she can move her arm, and her smile is straightening out, but we have to get the left hand working again. It's going to be a long haul. It helps that her mind and speech weren't affected. She'll still charm the boots off you.

Luckily, we know we have a lot of wisdom to guide us. Our health-care system is an amazing thing when you need it.

So too is the friend system. Once again during this family crisis, Deb and I have received the support, assistance, and love from friends, family, co-workers, and strangers. I was shocked to learn that the news had already reached Lennoxville. And I just heard that a friend living in Switzerland had called to wish us well.

It's been a freaky week and at times it has been hard to be of good cheer. Everyone's good will has been a tremendous help and we thank you. Abby thanks you, too.

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