AHA News: 7-Year-Old With Cancer Had a Stroke. Mom’s Rapid Response Saved Her.

THURSDAY, Jan. 13, 2022 (American Heart Association News) — “Mom, I’m tired” has become a common refrain from 7-year-old Olivia Storey to her mom, Jennifer.

Olivia also wasn’t eating as much as usual. She often had a low-grade fever.

The family was about to head from their home in Chino Hills, California, to a house on the lake in Arizona. So Jennifer texted the pediatrician, “Something is off with Olivia.”

This was in July 2020. Because of the emerging coronavirus crisis, the doctor warned Jennifer to wait and see if Olivia’s fever increased.

Olivia crowded during the flight. A week later, she woke up with blood blisters on her upper lip.

Jennifer was upset. I took Olivia to the emergency room. Doctors found that the girl had a slight enlarged spleen, but she was not too worried.

“Can you just do some blood tests for my peace of mind?” Jennifer asked him.

The doctor agreed.

Thirty minutes later, he returned with a panicked expression.

“Mrs. Storey, I want to talk to you,” he said as he walked Jennifer out of the room. “Olivia’s white blood cell count is off. I can’t confirm what it is, but it could be leukemia.”

Two days later, oncologists told Jennifer and her husband Jason that Olivia had leukemia. She needed to start chemotherapy right away.

When Olivia was told she was sick and would need treatment, she screamed, “Mom, what is leukemia? Am I going to die?”

Jennifer prided herself on being self-confident. But at this moment, she didn’t know what to say.

A biopsy showed that Olivia had B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The treatment is stressful – but the survival rate on it is high.

“We stayed positive as a family, but we were all scared,” Jennifer said. “Her twin sister handled it even more difficult. The girls joined in on the hip.”

Olivia endured several rounds of chemotherapy. A local nonprofit that helps families with children facing medical treatment offers meals, holiday gifts, and more.

With her family, friends and science at her side, Olivia is back to her strong and optimistic nature.

From August 2020 to February 2021, she never missed a school day. (And that helped almost hold the classes.) On the days she had chemo, she took her laptop to the clinic.

Every Monday was “Superheroes Day” – the superhero is Olivia. Our fellow students celebrated by wearing our superhero t-shirts.

One morning in February 2021, during her third round of chemotherapy, Olivia said, “Mom, I feel weird. I can’t feel my right hand.”

Jennifer discovered a slight lisp. The symptoms reminded her of relatives who had had strokes. She conveyed her concerns to the doctor who sent Olivia to the emergency room.

While Olivia was being checked out by a teleprofessional, she started convulsing. She had a stroke.

Doctors said it was from a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. This means that a blood clot has formed in the venous sinuses of her brain, preventing blood from draining properly from the brain.

Olivia was taken to a hospital in Los Angeles. I underwent surgery to remove the clot.

One of the doctors who treated her, Dr. Navdeep Sangha, said that had Olivia come to the emergency department with the same condition 10 years ago, she “may have had permanent mental and physical disability.”

Olivia spent less than two days in intensive care, and amazed her doctors by how quickly she began to walk, talk and eat.

“While medical care is about the same as it was 10 years ago, it is the advances in recognizing stroke as a possibility in children, as well as the rapid revitalization of the emerging pediatric stroke care system, that has made the difference,” he said.

Olivia has fully recovered from the stroke. Her chemotherapy is scheduled to continue until November.

Olivia is back at school, where masks are mandatory. Plastic shields protect her and her twin sister, and children practice social distancing during lunchtime.

“We still walk on eggshells, but not as much,” Jennifer said. “Olivia remains calm, positive and assertive. Her behavior plays a huge role in her treatment. On one occasion she said school was more difficult than chemo. I’m glad she doesn’t see what we see as adults.”

American Heart Association news covers heart and brain health. Not all opinions expressed in this story reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Copyright is owned or operated by the American Heart Association, Inc. , All rights reserved. If you have questions or comments about this story, please email editor@heart.org.

Written by Diane Daniel

© 2022 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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