At just six-weeks-old baby Anthea suffered a stroke

Anthea has ongoing issues as a result of the stroke she suffered as a newborn.
Anthea has ongoing issues as a result of the stroke she suffered as a newborn. Photo: Supplied

Mum-of-two Karli Hyder was still enjoying the newborn bubble of bliss when her six-week-old daughter, Anthea, woke from her afternoon nap screaming.

"It started off just like her colic scream and then progressively got more and more high pitched.  I knew there something not quite right," the Toowoomba mum remembers.  "There became a real groan and we noticed one side of her mouth was drooping and her eyes were rolling back.  She was cool to touch but really sweaty.  We checked her temp and it was 32.8."

Panic began to set in and concern that perhaps she had overdosed her baby on Panadol before putting her to bed.

Anthea's family are thankful she survived her ordeal.
Anthea's family are thankful she survived her ordeal.  Photo: Supplied

Ms Hyder and her husband, Dan, decided to take no chances and rushed their baby to the local hospital, believing it was better to be safe than sorry.

During the ten-minute drive to the hospital Anthea became unresponsive.  "I had to pinch her to get a response from her.  I was talking to her, but she wasn't doing anything.  I was pinching her toes to keep her going," Ms Hyder said.

"She was limp when we arrived at the hospital.  Her heart rate was quite low, and they started pushing adrenaline through to bring her heart rate up and a heated newborn bed to get her temperature up."

A team of doctors and nurses worked on Anthea but after ruling out sepsis they quickly realised she needed more specialised care and a helicopter was sent to transfer her to Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane.

Because Anthea was so young and extra retrieval doctors were needed for the flight, there was no room left for her parents.

"The medical team told us they didn't know if she would survive the flight.  They told us to say our goodbyes.  We said, 'no, we'd see her in Brisbane', but he was insistent.  We were extremely distraught."

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As Anthea was put in an induced coma and intubated, her parents heartbreakingly said their goodbyes and anxiously drove an hour and 40 minutes through the night to Brisbane not knowing if their baby would be alive when they arrived.

"We still had no idea what was even wrong.  All the blood tests showed nothing wrong," Ms Hyder said.

"When we arrived in Brisbane, they were still connecting her to the monitors and there were at least ten doctors and nurses in the room.  Infant specialists, social workers, paediatricians and nurses. 

"I needed to know what was happening straight away."

An ultrasound overnight showed fluid on the brain and at 6am the couple received a phone call to say she had become unstable and they were rushing her in for an MRI. The MRI showed a massive haemorrhage in the cerebellum and retinal haemorrhages affecting her eyesight.

"It took us time to realise she had had a stroke," Ms Hyder says. "It was complete shock and disbelief.  We had no idea babies could have a stroke.  It's something that affects old people we thought."

Anthea was then rushed into surgery to drain the blood and have a drain left in in case the intracranial pressure rose again. For Karli and Dan it was another excruciating wait as doctors spent eight hours operating and eventually stemmed the bleeding and removed a blood clot the size of a 50 cent piece. 

During this time preparations were also made for Karli's mum to bring their two-year-old son to Brisbane.

"He was very worried about where his sister was.  How do you tell him she didn't survive what had happened?"

Anthea needed five adult bags of blood to stabilise her and twice daily injections of Vitamin K to get her blood to clot, but she was alive.

After the surgery they were told they'd have to just watch her over the next 12 hours, 24 hours and then 48 hours as sedation and morphine was reduced, and levels of ventilation were reduced before finally being turned off.

It wasn't until day four she was able to return to the normal ward where she spent another two weeks.

Anthea couldn't start pureed food until 12-months-old because her tongue didn't work properly.

Now, two years after the ordeal, the toddler is still not walking without holding onto something because of poor muscle tone.  She has delayed speech and is still struggles with eating certain foods.  Her eyesight is significantly damaged, and her teeth are also decayed due to the all medication she had to have.

Despite all of that Karli said she feels incredibly lucky and grateful that she has been minimally impacted.

"I've seen what others have gone through.  You have to take the positive things," she believed.

Doctors were never able to establish what caused Anthea's stroke and genetic tests ruled out any genetic issues.

Karli hopes that other mums will not hesitate to seek help if they suspect something is wrong with their babies. 

"If it doesn't feel right go and get it checked.  I would hate to think if we had just thought it was colic."

After experiencing such support and comfort from a team of nurses, Karli decided to give up her career and has taken up studying nursing.

"The nurses were amazing and an inspiration which cemented what I wanted to do.  I want to give back and help other people in a similar situation."

According to the Stroke Foundation every year about two children in 100,000 will have a stroke.  Strokes can occur in all ages from newborns to teenagers. Sometimes strokes occur in babies before they are born with an estimate of one newborn in every 2,300 – 5000 having a stroke.

The causes of childhood stroke are poorly understood and the cause of stroke in newborns is usually unknown.