The moment when a newborn baby is passed into the arms of its mother is meant to be one of life’s most magical experiences.
But when 23-year-old mum Jessica Hill, from St Marys in western Sydney, held her baby boy Khynan for the first time, she knew something wasn’t quite right.
Little Khynan, it was discovered after five days of tests, had suffered a stroke at just one day old.
There had been no warning signs, no difficulties during pregnancy to indicate that Jessica’s first child was at risk of a stroke.
“When he was placed on my chest he was very limp, didn’t have much colour, wasn’t crying or making any noise,” Jessica told Yahoo.
“He came good after a couple of minutes and seemed to be ok. The doctors saw he was having some difficulty breathing, so they monitored that while we were in the birthing unit.”
After being sent up to the postnatal ward, Khynan spent a “very unsettled” night, Jessica said.
In the morning, doctors were concerned about his breathing and took him into the neonatal intensive care unit.
After a series of blood tests, Khynan was diagnosed with an infection, but then he began having seizures. An MRI on day five revealed he’d had a stroke.
“The news was a massive shock to the system,” Jessica said.
“We had never even heard of it happening to a newborn baby. When you think of strokes, you tend to think of it happening to older people, so it was very confusing and a very emotional time.”
Doctors have not been able to pinpoint exactly what causes strokes in newborn babies.
“With Khynan it was a blood clot that travelled to the brain, but why that actually happened is not clear,” Jessica said.
Now six months old, Khynan is doing well, but Jessica and her partner Shannon Wells have been told there’s a possibility their child could develop cerebral palsy.
“It was a pretty significant stroke, it wasn’t a small one, so we were told it could affect his development, from sitting to crawling and walking, his speech, feeding, eyesight, hearing, everything,” Jessica said.
“At the moment he has physiotherapy and occupational therapy every week and he is slightly delayed in the use of his right arm and hand.
“We’re really trying to concentrate on building his strength up, but with everything else it’s really just a matter of waiting for certain milestones to see how much it’s affected him.”
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Jessica said she hoped her experience would raise awareness that strokes can affect babies and children, not just the elderly.
“There wasn’t a lot of information for us as parents,” she said.
“Every time I tell someone what happened, they’re so shocked that it happened to a newborn.
“It needs to be talked about more – if we can just start a conversation about it, that’s a good thing.”