Help – child diagnosed with spinal cord stroke!

On November 30th, Oklahoma, US-based health journalist, Afamefuna Onyenekwe received a call from Mombasa, Kenya. There were no preambles even though the call was from a total stranger, linked only by impersonal interaction on social media. He had a reputation among his cohort of being a repository of knowledge on health issues.

‘Do you know anything about spinal cord stroke?’ the voice, half-pleading, half-imperious, was a woman’s, clearly a distraught mom.

Onyenekwe, 47 lives with sickle cell HbSC. As a health researcher with special interest in inherited blood diseases, he thought had seen it all. He had at his finger tips all sorts of information, statistics and tidbits about anything haemoglobinopathy. The query from Kenya made him to doubt his own competence in what he imagined was his niche field. He knew absolutely nothing about spinal strokes!

Gladys Kiramura, 7 had had an eventful day at school’s end-of-year party. Her mother well knew the child’s proclivity for having a few hours of mild crises the day after a day of excitement. Rather than spoil the fun and prevent her daughter from frolicking with her mates, her mom allowed her free rein, confident that mild pain killers the next day would make everything okay.

On this occasion, rather than muted groans of discomfort, the child was unable to walk – what was more, she had no feelings below the waist! she could not even lift her legs an inch off the floor. By MRI, the specialist hospital eventually diagnosed ischaemic spinal cord stroke. It was a rare SCD complication, so rare many doctors are aware of it only in theoretical terms.


Other Symptoms of Spinal Cord Stroke Include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • What are the symptoms of a spinal stroke?
  • sudden and severe neck or back pain.
  • muscle weakness in the legs.
  • problems controlling the bowel and bladder (incontinence)
  • feeling like there is a tight band around the torso.
  • muscle spasms.
  • numbness.
  • tingling sensations.
  • paralysis.
  • inability to feel heat or cold

Spinal stroke in children

A spinal stroke in a child is exceedingly rare. The cause of a spinal stroke in children is different from those in adults. Most of the time, a spinal stroke in a child is caused by either an injury to the spine, or a congenital condition that causes problems with the blood vessels or affects blood clotting.

Conditions that may cause spinal strokes in children include:

  • cavernous malformations, a condition that causes small clusters of abnormal, enlarged blood vessels that periodically bleed
  • arteriovenous malformations, an abnormal tangle of vessels in the brain or spinal cord
  • moyamoya disease, a rare condition where certain arteries at the base of the brain are constricted
  • vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels)
  • clotting disorders
  • lack of vitamin K
  • infections, such as bacterial meningitis
  • sickle cell anaemia
  • umbilical artery catheter in a newborn
  • a complication of heart surgery

In some cases, the cause of the spinal stroke is unknown.



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