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Family emphasizes stroke awareness after daughter suffered one at two days old

THIBODAUX, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) - Although stroke is often viewed as occurring primarily in the elderly, it also strikes children and infants. After their daughter, Mya, suffered a perinatal stroke three years ago, the McCann family shared their story this Stroke Awareness Month.

Right now, Mya is three-years-old and full of energy.

"She runs around like crazy. She dances in class with all her schoolmates," her father Ryan McCann said.

While she seems like your typical toddler now, her life didn't start like most other kids.

"After she was born, we were getting everything ready to take her back to the house. I noticed her left arm just kind of doing a little shake," McCann said.

Doctors quickly flew Mya out to another hospital for further examination.

"Through plenty of tests, we found out it was a stroke. It was a blood clot that went to hear brain and killed a section of it," her mother Sara McCann said.

According to the American Heart Association, stroke occurs in about one of every 3,500 births. In fact, stroke is one of the top 10 causes of death for children between the ages of one and 19. Of the children surviving stroke, about 60 percent will have permanent neurological deficits including total or partial paralysis on one side of the bod. According to the American Heart Association, other long-term disabilities caused by a stroke occurring around the time of birth include cognitive and sensory impairments, epilepsy, speech or communication disorders, visual disturbances, poor attention and behavioral problems. For more on stroke in infants, children and youth, visit the American Heart Association's website.

Although Mya is a healthy, three-year-old, her parents can still remember the fear they had when doctors told them she may never be able to use the left side of her body.

"It's hard to describe how you feel. You have your first kid and you're excited about bringing her back and you're not sure if you're going to be able to or not," Ryan McCann said.

Since she was young, they were able to start her in physical therapy, but it took them a while to learn how the stroke would impact Mya long-term.

"You want everything for your kid and you want them to do anything they want to do. Fortunately for us, she is great now, but in the beginning I was terrified," Sara McCann said.

Mya only has a few set-backs from her stroke. For example, she wears a brace on her left calf because her calf is tight. She also doesn't use her left hand quite as much as her right for fine motor skills. Those few things don't slow her down, though. 

Mya runs, plays, dances and throws just like others her age.

"There's not one thing shes can't do that other kids can do. We are very fortunate things worked out the way they did for us," Ryan McCann said.

They said there were a lot of support systems that helped them through this journey. They got into the Early Steps program through the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. 

"They were really good about keeping her physical therapy together and everything she was doing to keep her milestones going," Ryan McCann said.

They also said they've recently discovered The Children's Hemiplegia and Stroke Association (CHASA). The organization provides medical information, a support community and more. Sara McCann said it is a great resource and she wished she knew about it earlier in their journey.

The McCann family said they wanted to share their story this Stroke Awareness Month, in hopes of helping others.


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