May is Pediatric Stroke Awareness Month. It brings all kinds of emotions – sadness, happiness, anger, fear, calmness, relief…they all flood through me at nearly the same time when I hear the words, “pediatric stroke.”
According to the National Stroke Association, stroke happens in about 1 in 4,000 live births. My son, Alex, was one of those 4,000. He was diagnosed a little over two years ago.
After a healthy pregnancy and delivery, he was diagnosed at 4 1/2 months old when we started noticing he was not using his left arm/hand to play with toys. There has been no known cause found for his stroke. Since then, we’ve trialed medications, had brief periods of seizure-freedom, then in January of 2019, we had to ultimately make the decision to move forward with epilepsy surgery to cure his seizures.
Stroke has not been an easy diagnosis, but I can say that where we are today feels a lifetime away from where we were two years ago. My husband and I have met so many families over the years that have provided encouragement and support – who have helped us not feel so alone. Today, we are seizure-free, and we count our blessings every day. If you have traveled this road with us, you know it hasn’t been easy, and there have been many tears along the way.
Recently, I encountered a comment about stroke that I was not expecting. The comment was offensive and said in a flippant, joking manner, from someone I didn’t even know. It struck me so suddenly – like lightning from the sky. I was unprepared to hear the joke, and the emotions ran through my blood in a flash.
How could someone make a joke about stroke? If this person making this comment only knew the difficulties we have faced – that so many families face – as a result of something that happens in the blink of an eye…maybe they would think twice before saying something so critical and condescending. Another mother I spoke with after this encounter called it “ignorant bliss” – meaning that the person making the comment was so far removed from the everyday life of a person who has suffered a stroke, that they are simply blissfully unaware of the real challenges families face. As a result, a comment was made in front of me that was so painful to hear.
“Be kind” isn’t just a cute phrase to put on a shirt. It isn’t a tagline to a quote that you post on your Instagram. The definition of kind is actually “having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature” according to Google Dictionary. It means being caring, loving, and gentle. Gentle with your words and most definitely, gentle with others’ hearts.
Every person out there is fighting a battle. It may not look like yours – but there is something they are working through, dealing with, or recovering from. I ask this month, during Pediatric Stroke Awareness Month, that you spend a little bit of time being kind – to your friends, your neighbors, your spouses, your children – even to the strangers around you. Take a moment to go out of your way and be caring, loving, and gentle. Do something nice for someone. Think about your words and how they may impact others. We all could remember to be kind – today, and every day. If not just for me, but for everyone out there, especially our children, who show us everyday what brave, strong, and courageous really look like. They are the reason to be kind – each and every one of them.