Twenty-three out of 1,000 births. That is the number of infants who experience perinatal strokes, which can drastically change their and their families’ lives.
A perinatal stroke occurs when an infant experiences a stroke during the third trimester of gestation or about 30 days after postpartum. While there are many types of perinatal strokes, the three most common are those that block blood flow to the brain, those that hinder the central nervous system through thrombosis, and those that are diagnosed but do not have any specific effects.
Infants can experience this condition as a result of birth trauma, even after a normal pregnancy. Quakertown’s Michael Keeble, now 3 years old, was one such infant.
Michael’s mother, Jennifer Keeble, said that while her pregnancy with Michael was normal, he had a traumatic delivery, which may have led to his perinatal stroke.
Within several hours of his birth, Michael was experiencing seizures and was then emergency-transported to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for treatment and diagnosis. Michael was in the NICU for 10 days.
“They were looking at blood clotting factors, they were looking at metabolic issues, and they were looking at his brain on MRIs,” said Keeble.
After a long period of serious deliberation, the experts concluded that Michael had experienced a perinatal stroke.
Because of Michael’s condition, his childhood milestones were delayed. “He was crawling later than other children, and then he was walking later,” said Keeble.
Now, Michael primarily has issues with the fine motor development of his right hand, especially with the simultaneous motion of his right index finger and his thumb. Because Michael retains the brain damage caused by the perinatal stroke, the stroke has manifested himself through a condition known as monoparesis, meaning he struggles with only one of his limbs. In this case, it is his right hand.
Although strokes are a neurological impediment, they can affect different people in different ways. For some, speech is compromised. For others, memory, or social skills. However, Michael’s perinatal stroke has thus far only been a physical setback, evidenced by his sharp mind and infectious personality.
“Cognitively, Michael is right where he should be and his communication and social skills are advanced,” said Keeble. “It is easy to love his great personality.”
Michael received weekly physical therapy and occupational therapy through Early Intervention since birth. He is regularly monitored through CHOP’s Stroke Program by several therapists and specialists.