Henry was three months old. I was home alone with one of my brother-in-laws. Henry had just woken up from a nap, so I changed his diaper, grabbed a bottle, and sat down to feed him. Before the bottle made it to his lips, be began to have strong tremors. His eyes were open, and while silent, he looked so confused, so scared, as his small body convulsed uncontrollably. The seizure only lasted about thirty seconds. It was so fast, and so weak, I wasn’t 100% sure that it was a seizure. Henry was my second baby, though, and I’d never seen a baby do anything like this before. I called the pediatrician and told them what happened. Though they didn’t sound too concerned, they recommended taking him to the Children’s hospital, Egleston, in Atlanta. His father came home straightaway, and we took him, though we figured that we were over reacting. Surely our baby, our little, healthy baby, didn’t just have a seizure. When we arrived at the hospital, Henry was taken to a room immediately. We didn’t even have time to sit in the waiting room, which is a testament to how good this hospital is. The doctor didn’t think that Henry had had a seizure, but decided to administer a CAT scan, just in case. After the CAT scan, we expected to be released after they got the results. This is why I was confused when a tech came in to draw more of Henry’s blood. With an outstretched hand, I questioned why they needed to prick him again. Confused, the tech fetched for the doctor to speak with me.
When the doctor came in, I was alone with Henry. My husband had stepped out to take a phone call. “There’s no easy way to say this, but your little boy has brain damage.” And just like that, my world froze. Convinced this must be a cruel joke, I said, “What? What do you mean? What happened?” Face hardening, the doctor answered, “Well, that’s what we have to figure out. Did anything happen? Did he maybe hit his head on accident? Was he dropped?” No, no, this doctor couldn’t mean what it sounded as if he meant! Surely, he wasn’t asking if we abused our little bitty innocent baby boy! But, he was. He had to. For children as young as our Henry, abuse was the leading cause of brain damage. When abuse is suspected, a baby like Henry has to have a full body x-ray.
Though I carried his little body to the x-ray room, I couldn’t hold him down the whole time. I just couldn’t. He screamed, and screamed, and it took about forty five minutes to finish the scans. By the time we made it to a room to stay in for the next two days, they had discovered that Henry had a perinatal, or in utero, stroke. The damage had wound it’s way through his entire left hemisphere, leaving very little of that side of his brain untouched. Henry had, in fact had a seizure, and according to an EEG, he would probably have more. During our two day stay in the hospital, Henry went through many tests, including ultrasounds, EEGs, x-rays, CAT scans, MRI’s, blood tests, etc. He was put on a seizure medication that made him sleep nearly all of the time until his body adjusted to it. Finally, we were released, not knowing what to expect, or what caused his stroke, or what his future would look like. To this day, we don’t know just how many issues Henry will have, or how severe those issues will be. So far, we know that Henry has epilepsy, though it is mostly managed well with medication. He has developmental delay. He’s nine months old now, and cannot sit unsupported, roll over consistently, or eat well. He has right sided hemiparesis, which is a form of cerebral palsy.
Henry has it rough, but he is the most affectionate baby I have ever seen. He wraps his arm around your neck and plays with your hair and loves to be kissed. He smiles easily at every one he sees, and he especially loves to laugh at his big brother. Henry has a long way to go, but he’s happy, he’s brave, and he’s so strong.