claudia and sonIt was a snowy January day and Alex Newton was home from school watching cartoons when he felt the entire right half of his body start tingling.

Soon after, the 10-year-old told his mother that his face also felt tingly.

“The hair on the back of my neck stood up because being an EMT, we’re trained that one of the symptoms of stroke is paralysis or tingling or numbness on one side of your body.” said Claudia Newton, who has been a volunteer emergency medical technician for 12 years.

Claudia was uncertain exactly what was going on with her son’s neurological system and decided to test him for other neurological deficits. She asked him to raise both of his arms, but his right arm drifted downward. It was clear to her that he was experiencing weakness on the right side of his body. Although I knew something was wrong, I never suspected stroke.

He was rushed to the hospital emergency room and from there he was rushed to an MRI.

“When he came out of the MRI the doctor said, ‘I’m so sorry, we did see something,’ which are the words no parent ever wants to hear.” Claudia said.  “The doctor said, ‘Alex had a stroke.’”

Claudia and her husband Bob were astounded and questioned how this could be happening to their little boy.

“You have so many questions, you’re so confused,” Bob said.

The doctors had few answers. Alex had no risk factors for childhood stroke and was a very healthy kid.

Fortunately, the stroke in 2011 left minimal damage. But just 10 months later, Alex suffered another stroke that was four times larger than the first. He suffered a third stroke in September 2013.

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The reasons why Alex had those three strokes is unknown. Today, he suffers no physical disabilities, but does experience severe headaches. He does not play contact sports and avoids some activities because of the blood thinners he takes to try to prevent future strokes.

Those do not preclude him from spending time with his Lego creations, which he describes as a “labor of love.”  His favorite constructions are the architectural design LEGO’s and he is devoted to the interlocking brick systems.

As he builds, Claudia gratefully watches and says she likes to think that the snow day nearly four years ago is “the day that potentially saved Alex’s life.”

Without Claudia’s knowledge of the F.A.S.T. stroke warning signs Alex may not have received medical care as quickly, potentially leading to disability or death.

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Claudia and AlexShe and Bob are making it their personal mission to spread the word about the F.A.S.T. stroke warning signs and the additional signs of stroke in children, particularly among first responders.

Quick stroke treatment is critical, and educating first responders as well as the general public about what do in a stroke emergency can help save lives.

The couple has teamed up with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and the International Alliance for Pediatric Stroke to teach others that strokes can happen at any age.

“The more people know and understand that pediatric stroke is a real stroke, the better off kids who suffer from pediatric stroke will be.” said Claudia.

Photos courtesy of Newton family