Healthy Living: Kids can have strokes too

     We don't get the choose the cards we're dealt, but we can decide how to play our hand.  For 10-year-old Dominic Donati, this is more than a game of cards.
It's therapy.

     "Our focus is really all about health and well being for our son," Laurie Donati said.  "And making sure he's making growth and progress as he should."

     Last fall, Dominic was in the Pediatric ICU at Seattle Children's Hospital.  The once active, and athletic 4-th grader had suffered multiple strokes.

     "Strokes!  What does that even mean?"  Laurie Donanti said, "I didn't know strokes were a possibility in children."

     Laurie and Tony Donati were like many parents, in the dark about the reality of strokes in kids.

     "Childhood strokes occur in about 5-10 of 100,000 children," said Dr. Catherine Amlie-Lefond with Seattle Children's Hospital, who also happens to be Dominic's doctor. "In his case we were actually able to confirm dissection on the imaging."

     A dissection happens when a blood vessel or it's lining has been injured.  It forms a clot and can cause a stroke.  In Dominic's case, doctors don't know what caused that injury.  Laurie was told it could have been something as simple as a sneeze or falling the wrong way while playing.

     Dr. Amlie- Lefond says, "Most pediatric strokes are heralded by an acute neurological deficit.  One side of the body is weak or there is difficulty walking or difficulty speaking, just like in adults."

     "This is something that can happen but there's also hope after it happens," said Laurie Donati.

     The Donati's found hope in a group called Pediatric Stroke Warriors , founded my a mother, who's daughter was born having survived a stroke before birth.  The organization says many children with stroke symptoms are misdiagnosed with more common conditions like migraines, epilepsy or a viral illness.

     In the Donati's case, Laurie says she and her husband Tony knew something was wrong.  The Donati's said Dominic had been having headaches for weeks.  They even took him to the pediatrician, and were sent home with Tylenol.  Laurie's  advice now to other parents is to trust your instinct.

     "Tony and I still left with a gut feeling that something was really wrong," said Laurie.

     It's been ten months since Dominic's strokes.  He now uses a brace to help keep his ankle and knee stable.  He's had to relearn many basic tasks.   His right side was impacted, so now he uses his left side to do most things.  And there are things he just can't do, like play football, but he takes each challenge in stride.

     "This didn't derail him," said Tony Donati, Dominic's dad.   "He's just young enough and it's like okay, this is part of my story.  This is what I have to do."

     Dominic will be on a daily dose of aspirin for the rest of his life to reduce his risk for more strokes, but on this day, his priority is beating Q13 News Anchor, Marni Hughes on the basketball court.

     Getting here hasn't been easy, but for Dominic the only way to play the game on the court, or in life is to give it your all and he'll never stop trying.

     "He truly is a walking miracle," said Laurie Donati.

     If you'd like to learn more about pediatric strokes and the warning signs, visit Pediatric Stroke Warriors