10-Year-Old Suffers Stroke, Parents Share his Story to Warn Others of the Dangers

- Parents should be aware of a devastating health concern. It's one, you probably wouldn't associate with children.

Fox 29's Dawn Timmeney has the story of a courageous boy from our area battling back from a scare that his parents never imagined they'd be dealing with at such a young age.

10-year old Evan Boxley of Cherry Hill, New Jersey is trying to master the trombone.

It's all new to Evan, but he's  embracing his musical side.

"He's loud but I think he's doing pretty well," said Evan's sister Makayla Boxley.

Pretty well indeed, especially considering Evan loves sports like soccer.

But now that is limited to kicking the ball around in the backyard with his older sister.

He can run track, and can't take part in contact sports for fear of a head injury. It was a tough pill to swallow when you are in fourth grade.

"The hardest thing is that I can't do certain things like ride my bike and play soccer," Evan explained.

The reason for the restrictions is that Evan had a stroke at just eight-years old.

It all started with severe headaches in August of 2013.

"He kept getting headaches and within a span of a week-he had multiple headaches during the day. He woke up at night with a headache," explained Evan's mom Ayanna, "It almost felt like someone was hammering my head with a mallet with a heavy hammer."

His pediatrician ordered an MRI, but it came back normal.     

The headaches persisted, so Evan started seeing a neurologist.

Doctors thought it might be migraines, until another  symptom suddenly developed; numbness.

"He described it as feeling like his fingers weren't there," Ayanna explained.

That was in October of 2013, when his mom began wondering, if this could be a stroke.

"But I totally put it out of my mind because it seemed so abnormal for somebody who is 8 to be having a stroke," Ayanna explained.

Evan was having difficulty walking and talking.  His mom rushed him to the nearest hospital.

"I was terrified," she recalled, "He was crying, but he couldn't verbalize at all."

Ayanna called her husband, and while they waited in the emergency room, Evan started to feel better.    

After a few tests, doctors were ready to send him home.

The Boxley's say, out of protocol, the hospital called the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where he was being treated for his headaches.

A doctor there suggested a CAT scan before releasing evan.

That changed everything.

Suddenly the Boxley's say there was a sense of urgency. Evan was taken to CHOP where they learned their little boy had indeed suffered a stroke.

"I felt like I was going to faint. I could not be hearing those words because he was a perfectly healthy child up until this point," Ayanna said.

"We just cried and prayed that is what we did," Evan's father added.  

Dr. Rebecca Ichord is the director of CHOP's Pediatric Stroke Program.

"Evan had a very complicated series of events that caused him to have a stroke," Dr. Ichord said, "It is a fearsome thing. It is something that should be viewed as an emergency. We use the word brain attack."

Doctors discovered a small congenital tumor on Evan's heart, where they also found a blood clot had formed.

"That clot or perhaps a bit of tumor traveled together with the clot and blocked an artery in his brain and that is the first time we knew he had a stroke," Dr. Ichord explained.

Evan had heart surgery two days later to remove the tumor.

He was in the hospital for over a month and had to go through occupational, speech and physical therapy.

"Part of the time I was in the hospital, I forgotten how to walk," Evan recalled.

Through it all, this little boy never stopped smiling. Evan just kept telling himself one thing.

"I can do this," he said, "sometimes you just have to think positive."

His sister Makayla admits she was frightened for her  brother.

She still can't believe how incredibly positive and brave Evan was, despite all the obstacles and challenges he faced.

"I've seen him be amazing when it was impossible to be amazing. I don't know how many people can do that,but he did." Makayla said.

But then, there was another setback.

"So months later after his initial stroke, we thought we were out of the woods and low and behold he had another stroke," said Dr. Ichord.

"It is lottery chances for a boy to have a stroke and then a boy to have a second stroke from a different source," explained Evan's father Broderick.

This time, it was the result of minor trauma to an artery in his neck. It was something Dr. Ichord says can happen in active children.

"The artery has somehow been subjected to some compression or twisting and as a result some clot formed at the spot where that abnormality occurred," said Dr. Ichord.  

That clot went up to Evan's brain and caused another series of strokes. That was March of 2014.

A year and a half later, doctors still keep a close eye on Evan. The good news is, he is on the right medications and is making a phenomenal recovery.

"They call him a miracle because of what he's been through and how well he responds," his mother said, "I Think things will never be exactly the same, but we live and cherish each day."

Evan has a message to the doctors who saved his life.

"I would like to say thank you and keep up the good work," he said.

The Boxley family is now on a mission to get the word out that children can have strokes.

"it is important to know because it could happen to anybody," said Makayla, "If people hear Evan's story and they recognize those signs in somebody else, it could easily save somebody's life if they take proper action."

Half the children who have strokes are perfectly healthy at the time... The average age is 6 to 8 years old.

It is rare, and hardly ever fatal in children. The symptoms include headaches, a sudden loss of neurological function, and trouble speaking or balance problems.

 Getting treatment right away is the key to a positive outcome.

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