By Colin MacGillivray
WALLAN woman Hailey McKirdy is looking forward to making a difference in the lives of young stroke survivors as part of the Stroke Foundation’s first Childhood Stroke Lived Experience Advisory Group.
The advisory group, comprising six adults who had a stroke as a child and six parents of young stroke survivors, is the first advisory group formed specifically to represent the needs of survivors of paediatric stroke, their families and carers.
The group will meet four times a year to provide insight and help shape Stroke Foundation activities and projects.
Ms McKirdy is a survivor of paediatric stroke, which she suffered when she was six.
She said she was excited to be named a member of the advisory group and was looking forward to helping reassure childhood stroke survivors and their families.
“I was a healthy kid until the age of six, when I had a stroke in my bed. I was heading off to sleep and then my head started feeling a bit funny. I noticed I couldn’t speak and I struggled with my movement,” she said.
“Mum and dad called an ambulance and about two weeks later after doing a whole bunch of testing they told me that I’d had a paediatric stroke.
“I can’t really remember too much of it, but my parents have told me what a scary time it was for them.
“In the early days my parents had a lot of tunnel vision about the future, and it just became an anxious time for them.
“I want to show [other families] what you can do and that you can have a fulfilling life after paediatric stroke.”
Stroke Foundation stroke services acting executive director Eamonn O’Toole said about 600 Australian children suffered a stroke each year.
“Awareness of paediatric stroke is gradually growing amongst health professionals and in the community, largely driven by passionate people with lived experience, including those in this group,” he said.
“But there is much more work to be done to ensure children receive their stroke diagnosis and treatment faster to improve their chances of a better recovery.”
The Stroke Foundation estimated between 50 and 85 per cent of childhood stroke survivors would experience disabilities that last a lifetime.
Ms McKirdy said she still experienced occasional struggles with movement and fatigue, but they were not barriers to a happy, fulfilling life.
“I had my stroke in the late 90s, and back then it was kind of unheard of. Now I think it’s becoming a little bit more known and people are becoming more aware that paediatric stroke is an actual thing,” she said.
“I want to pass on my advice about life in general, from schooling and further education to issues that I came across with mental health, to drivers’ licences, to just general questions.
“I’m really excited to be working with the people from the Stroke Foundation to help everyone that is living with paediatric stroke.
“I’m excited to get together with some really awesome, driven people to hopefully make a difference and make it less scary for someone else.”