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Cerebral Palsy

I suspected something was wrong with Luke hours after he born, as he appeared to have reduced movements and floppiness of his body

A mother's story .....

It is hard to imagine that a baby can have a stroke in the mother’s womb, but that is exactly what happened to baby Luke .

At first we thought the signs were due to the normal stresses of delivery and the effect of pethidine, but three weeks later Luke developed a croup-type cough, he wouldn’t eat and as a result started to loose weight. I was extremely concerned and after visiting our doctor, Luke was referred to a paediatrician and tested for cystic fibrosis, which proved negative.

As Luke grew older it became increasingly obvious that the right side of his body had become really weak. He failed his seven-month development check and was re-referred to the paediatrician who diagnosed a stroke. A MRI scan eventually revealed extensive damage to the left side of his brain, which had resulted in cerebral palsy.

Although Luke’s mobility has improved and he is able to ‘bottom shuffle’, he suffers from development delays and is unable to stand or walk without support. He can’t use his right hand and pays little attention to it; a squint in his left eye has affected his vision too. Luke has also been recently diagnosed with epilepsy and has regular convulsions of about 30 seconds.

Luke has difficulty using his right hand; he does get frustrated at times especially when feeding or playing as most toys are designed for two-hand use. But as he has never known what it is like to live without cerebral palsy, he compensates remarkably well and is a very happy and loving little boy.

Research in cerebral palsy is extremely important, which is why we have agreed for Luke to assists in the non-invasive project being funded by Action Research at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary. The team is investigating how the various parts of the brain communicate and if the developing brain compensates for damaged areas by reorganising nerve pathways. It is only by exploring this further that we can ensure Luke and other children like him reach their full potential.

Action Research has donated more than £80,000 to experts at the city’s Royal Victoria Infirmary. Lead researcher Professor Janet Eyre, of the Sir James Spence Institute of Child Health is thrilled and commented: "This grant will enable use to continue our research into whether the developing brain can overcome damage by reorganisation of nerve pathways."

Dr Evans, Childalert Expert and adviser, adds: "Luke’s case underlines the importance and benefits of monitoring a baby through labour, as any period of diminished oxygen supplied to the baby can result in Cerbal Palsy. By closely monitoring the baby throughout labour, reduced oxygen delivery can be identified and action taken to avoid Cerbal Palsy."

Finding suitable toys to stimulate children with Cerbal Palsy can also be difficult. Generally it is better to concentrate on what a child can do rather than what they can’t. Many toys normally used with both hands can be used with only one hand, provided the toy is secured and it is often wise to play with such toys on a tray.

Magnetic toys such as jig-saws, magnetic construction toys, fishing games and letters are helpful as are balls, which are excellent for helping developments and can be rolled or thrown and caught. There are also balls, which have lights, which flash or glow likewise.

Many musical instruments can be used with one hand such as a maracas or xylophone. Other musical instruments can also be used with one hand and mouth like for example a trumpet

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