8 Strokes article

12-year-old Alfie suffered his first stroke at two and has survived another SEVEN leaving him brain damaged
Parents told no other child has survived as many strokes as Alfie and it’s a ‘miracle’ he is still alive

By KELLY STRANGE

WE mostly associate strokes with old age, but Alfie Oakley has survived EIGHT and he’s only 12.

The Essex schoolboy has also suffered many more mini strokes that have left him with permanent brain damage, reduced mobility and reliant on a wheelchair.
 
Alfie Oakley suffered eight strokes by the age of 12, leaving him brain damaged and using a wheelchair

Sadly, he can no longer kick a football about with his little brothers Jack, seven, and six-year-old Jude.

He also wears a crash helmet to school to prevent head injuries should he have another stroke.

His mum Justine, 32, and dad Tom 36, have set up a fundraising page online to help Alfie and other children like him.

And by sharing his story, they want to raise awareness that a stroke, which is the third biggest killer in the UK, can happen in childhood — every year around 400 kids in the UK have a stroke.

Alfie was two when he had his first stroke, much to the disbelief of his parents, who live in Chelmsford and are both delivery drivers.

Alfie had his first stroke at two-years-old after being poorly since birth with feeding and development issues

Justine says: “At first I couldn’t believe it. I thought only older people had strokes.

“To us, it’s a miracle he has survived so many when one is enough to kill. We’ve been told no other child has survived as many as Alfie.

“But each stroke takes another part of him. We want to see more research into strokes in children. I hope that by sharing his story, we can make more parents aware of the signs.”

Recalling Alfie’s first stroke, Justine says: “He was poorly since birth with undiagnosed feeding and development issues, so I kept a close eye on him.

“My mum was holding him when he suddenly jolted awake and started staring into space. Then his arms started shaking and he was gasping.”

Justine rang 999 and paramedics resuscitated Alfie twice in the ambulance.

His condition finally stabilised two hours after he was admitted to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.

She says: “It was the most terrifying thing I have ever seen. I thought we had lost him.”

In the hours that followed, Alfie appeared sleepy and lethargic. And in the weeks after that, he stopped crawling.

An MRI scan at Great Ormond Street revealed the shocking reason why.

Justine says: “The consultant said he’d suffered a huge stroke. We were numb. We never thought it could happen to kids, let alone babies.”

Months later Alfie had two more strokes. Tests showed the arteries leading to the left side of his brain were narrowing.

In March 2007, at the age of three, he had a six-hour operation to replace the blood vessel.

Justine says: “It was horrible. We were warned that there was a chance we could lose him in the operation, but without it he would die anyway if he suffered another stroke.”

Alfie pulled through but in March 2009 he suffered more strokes.

This time surgeons said they needed to replace the artery on the other side of his brain.

Later that year he had a third life-risking brain operation to fit a shunt to open up his carotid artery.

Devastatingly, he had yet another stroke on Christmas Day 2010, aged seven.

He was on the sofa about to open his presents when he went rigid and began foaming at the mouth.

Justine says: “It was a mystery why Alfie kept having strokes but by then, doctors had done all they could in terms of surgery.

“We didn’t know if the strokes were linked to his other issues or if it was just one of those things.

“All they could tell us for sure is that Alfie is unique.”

Since then Alfie, who has also been diagnosed with autism and global developmental delay (GDD), has suffered a series of mini strokes.

He now needs a wheelchair to get around outside the family home.

His right arm dangles at his side and he has lost the strength in his right leg so wears a splint. He attends a local school for children with additional needs.

Justine says: “He is a ticking time bomb. Nobody knows when it will happen again and what the outcome will be.”

Though she says her son remains “cheeky and strong-willed”, what he has been through has taken its toll.

Justine says: “Alfie’s right hand drops things — he calls it his silly hand but we hope he can recover the strength in his legs with physio.

“We’d love for him to be able to play with his brothers without us having to hold him.”

She and Tom are raising money for intensive physiotherapy rehabilitation designed especially for children with brain injuries.

Justine says: “We don’t know what the future holds but we want Alfie to enjoy life as much as possible.”

Dr Anne Gordon, Consultant Occupational Therapist in Paediatric Neuroscience at Evelina London Children’s Hospital, says: “Stroke among children can happen at any time — even in the womb.

“Research does not suggest this is happening more often, but advances in brain scanning means it is now possible to more quickly and accurately diagnose stroke.”

To donate, visit gofundme.com/lar9ho <https://www.gofundme.com/lar9ho> .