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6-year-old girl thrives after stroke (w/video)

Jan. 21, 2014 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 20, 2014 at 7:21 p.m.

Lola Anderson, 6, sits with her mom, Fairleigh Rose, 33, after her lesson at  C/J Performance Horses in Port Lavaca. Lola likes to ride horses, her motorcycle and a little car she has at home.

Lola's 5K for Pediatric Stroke Awareness

• W: 9 a.m. April 12

• W: Riverside Park

• R: $30 benefits the National Stroke Association

• For more information, visit lolas5k.com

Common risk factors for stroke in children

• Diseases of the arteries

• Cardiac disorders

• Infection

• Acute or chronic head and neck disorders

• Abnormal blood clotting

• Sickle-cell disease

Symptoms

• Seizures, especially in newborns

• Worsening or sudden headaches

• Sudden difficulty speaking, slurring of words or trouble understanding speech

• Hemiparesis, or a weakness on one side of the body

• Sudden loss of vision or abnormal eye movements

• Sudden loss of balance or trouble walking

National Stroke Association website

Fairleigh Rose, 33, of Edna, awoke Aug. 13, 2008, believing that particular Wednesday would be like any other.

But her daughter, Lola Anderson, then 18 months old, was not acting like herself. Her family learned almost a week later that a stroke had caused her symptoms. An estimated six in 100,000 children are affected each year by stroke in the United States, said Crystal Blaylock, special events manager for the National Stroke Association. Blaylock was not involved in 6-year-old Lola Anderson’s medical diagnosis.

"She usually talked and sang songs while I got her ready," Rose said. "But she wasn't talking, and she was lethargic."

Lola did not have a fever, so Rose dropped her at the babysitter's house on her way to work. She asked the sitter to monitor Lola's temperature and to call if it changed.

When Rose returned after work, she found her daughter sitting in the same spot, playing with the same toys.

"The right side of her face was drooping," Rose said. "And I thought immediately that she had had a stroke."

Rose turned to look at Lola in the backseat as she drove to her mother's house.

"Are you OK?" Rose asked her daughter.

"No," Lola said.

Rose's mother began crying when she saw her granddaughter.

"What's wrong with her?" she asked. "What happened?"

Rose called her then-husband, Clint Anderson, 37, and they rushed Lola to the emergency room.

The doctor believed Lola had Bell's palsy, a weakness of the muscles in one side of the face. The next day, her pediatrician supported that diagnosis.

"I felt like it was more than Bell's palsy because she wasn't using her arm or her leg," Rose said.

Lola saw a pediatric neurologist the following Tuesday. He immediately sent her to the hospital for an MRI, which confirmed her mother's suspicion.

"We were speechless," Rose said. "I always go with my intuition now."

Doctors do not know what caused the stroke, but they believe it started in an artery in the left side of Lola's neck.

"Not knowing the cause can work in favor of the child," said Dr. Steve Roach, professor of pediatrics and neurology at Ohio State University and pediatric neurologist with Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Roach said that in his 30 years of experience in medicine, strokes recur less frequently in children when the cause is undetermined.

Lola takes an aspirin every day to thin her blood.

"Taking aspirin at a low dosage every day is reasonably safe," Roach said. "We don't know many who started taking it when they were 2 who are now 80."

The most common causes of stroke in children are congestive heart failure, sickle-cell disease and trauma to an artery, Roach said.

Trauma is difficult to diagnose because of the chicken-and-egg dilemma, he said. It is not always clear whether the trauma caused the stroke or the stroke caused the trauma.

Since her stroke, Lola, now 6, has had physical and occupational therapy twice each week.

She has regained use of her right hand but wears a brace on her right leg.

"They think she will need to continue wearing the brace," Clint Anderson said. "But our goal is that she won't need it by high school."

Rose told her daughter that the brace makes her run faster.

"Lola is a tough girl," Rose said. "Nothing gets her down or holds her back."

The tomboy barrel races, hunts, fishes, plays football and rides her four-wheeler.

An image of the dainty blonde also published in a hair stylist's book.

"She believes she can do anything she puts her mind to, and that's the way we want it," Rose said.

Lola said she wants to grow up to be a police officer or a motorcycle racer.

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