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Last updated: Fri. Jul. 30, 2010 - 10:35 am EDT

Stroke recovery is slow - even at age 5

Physical therapy helping boy regain damaged functions

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To help Drew

On Aug. 7, there will be a golf outing at Foster Park Golf Course to help raise money for Drew Kelly's medical expenses. Currently there are enough teams for the event, but organizers still need hole sponsors for $200, a prize sponsorship for $400, with $200 going for first place, $120 for second and $80 for third. The Kellys would be grateful for any donations people would like to make. Checks can be made payable to Brookside Church, attention Drew Kelly Benefit. Donations are tax-deductible.

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Balanced on his knees on a peanut-shaped ball, 5-year-old Drew Kelly reached for the outstretched hand of Chris George, a physical therapy assistant.

“Great job!,” said George, as Drew made the reach.

Drew is doing great. Everyone will tell you so – his parents, his therapists – and to look at the active, happy boy, one would never know he suffered a stroke March 17.

“It was the worst day of my life, and the best because he didn't die,” said Alicia Kelly, Drew's mother.

It happened at preschool. Alicia Kelly had dropped her son off in the morning with special St. Patrick's Day cupcakes and stickers to hand out to classmates. But he never got the chance to celebrate. Her husband received a phone call, telling him their son was not feeling well and he should come and get him.

When Cameron Kelly arrived, he found Drew couldn't move his right arm and had a profound limp. To make matters worse, when Kelly asked his son how he was feeling, he only shook his head or shrugged. Kelly took him to get a drink of water at the drinking fountain and all the water ran out of his mouth.

“I took him straight to the Parkview emergency room,” Cameron Kelly said.

Twelve hours later, they were still in the ER as doctors administered test after test, trying to figure out what was going on. The first CAT scan and MRI came back negative for a stroke.

“I felt like I was watching him get worse,” Alicia Kelly said.

It would be several days before doctors discovered proof of a stroke, which had occurred on his brain stem. It wasn't until April, after Easter, that Drew was released from the hospital. By that time he had been through intensive rehabilitation for speech, physical therapy and occupational therapy. He regained his speech the same day as his stroke, although it was slow and labored at first. Bringing back his right side took longer.

Once home, Drew still needed physical therapy as an outpatient, at first every day, now several times a week. To complicate matters, he had another, less severe stroke during physical therapy May 10. His parents took him to the Cleveland Clinic on May 24 to meet with a specialist in pediatric strokes. They were told they might never know what triggered the episodes.

He had more tests, but they all came back negative. The only thing doctors discovered is he is at greater risk for a stroke because of an inherited genetic condition called Factor V Leiden. Factor V Leiden affects coagulation and can cause clotting problems in veins.

“You don't want your child to be sick, but at the same time you almost wish they could find a physical reason for why it happened. Then you could fix it,” Cameron Kelly said. Both parents still find it hard to believe a healthy 5-year-old could have a stroke.

“I just want other parents to be aware your child could have a stroke; you always think only old people have those,” Alicia Kelly said.

To take Drew to therapy, Cameron Kelly drives 117 miles from his job in Kendallville, to their home on the northeast side of town and then to physical therapy in a building adjacent to Lutheran Hospital, which costs $100 a week in gas. The couple is insured, but it has cost them $4,000 more in out-of-pocket medical expenses than what they planned.

The Kellys have been told Drew will need to continue in therapy for the next six months to a year.


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