In my darkest days, right after the initial diagnosis, a therapist recommended Norman Doidge's, book: The Brain That Changes Itself. Read it. It will provide you with the strength you need to move from why?... to how?... and it will open your own mind to the brilliance of the human brain - young or old - and its ability to re-wire, adapt and re-learn.
Nobody dreams of becoming a parent of a disabled child when they think about the future of their unborn child. While devastating, you can't change the hand you were dealt. Take the time to grieve for what you lost, but realize that your child is a precious gift that needs you to help them.
You have likely asked for the cause of the stroke and haven't received any answers. Little is known about the cause of pediatric stroke today and more research is required on this topic.
You have likely also asked for a prognosis – will your child walk, talk, run, go to a typical school, etc. Take one day at a time as the future can seem so overwhelming. While every child is unique, most pediatric stroke children do walk eventually, although it will likely be later than their peer group and perhaps with a different gait. In a study of 33 children that suffered an arterial ischemic stroke neonatally, one-third of the children did not have any deficit and only one child had a receptive speech deficit.
You are likely upset, angry, and emotional. I can relate because I went through those emotions as well. Why did this happen to my beautiful baby was all that went through my mind, over and over again. But, it doesn't matter why or when it happened, but it did happen. As soon as you can deal with this new reality, you can move on with helping your child. Believe me, some days I focus on the why. But, those days are the worst for my son's development as well as my own mental state. Try to turn every negative thought into a positive one...turn worry into therapy and your child will develop beautifully!
Your child will adapt and so will you. You will also come to realize the miracle that your child is. We all wish for perfect children. But, you'll never trade your child in for somebody else as they will teach you so much and give you so much joy. I watch my beautiful son accomplish a milestone (no matter how small) and I am filled with such a sense of accomplishment and fierce sense of love and pride for him.
Laura, Mum to Nolen and Asher
Therapy must become a state of life for the child and family of pediatric stroke. The traditional therapies of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and infant development therapy can be augmented by alternative therapies such as Feldenkrais, Hippotherapy, and Craniosacral therapy. Nobody will be able to tell you what amount of therapy is enough for your child – only you can judge that.
Try to incorporate therapy into your day-to-day activities. A diaper change means practicing a roll to sit, quiet time with a bottle means a hand massage. Also try to make therapy fun and change up the exercises based on your child's interests. An older sibling's toys and interests are a great motivator for your child.
And remember, kids are kids! After months of therapy with my son focused on trying to pull himself to standing, he finally pulled himself up to standing after his brother left his unwanted chocolate ice cream on the coffee table!
Educate yourself on what therapies are available (see the CPSSA Therapy page) and what is best for your child. Find therapists that you feel comfortable with and that are working in the best interests of your child. Believe in the wonders of neuroplasticity and only work with therapists that believe in it too.
Don't focus or get discouraged if your child is late in achieving a milestone. She or he likely won't develop like a typical baby. Focus instead on your child's ability to achieve milestones at their own pace and that the trajectory of achieving new milestones continue.
Laura, Mum to Nolen and Asher
My first child, a beautiful daughter, was planned and dreamed of for as long as I could remember. Even before she arrived, her closet was lined with tiny pink dresses. Still in my belly, I would lie on my bed and imagine ways that I could make her childhood perfect. Not long after she arrived, I knew I wanted her to be a big sister. I had always envisioned a big family and appreciated sibling relationships as an important way to nurture strong family values. When Sophie did become a big sister, it was not the sibling dynamic I had imagined for either of my children.
Gabrielle was about three months old when she was diagnosed with a rare disease called PHACE Syndrome, which included congenital heart disease and a pediatric stroke. She spent most of her first year of life living at SickKids Hospital, being diagnosed, in and out of procedures and treatments, and fighting for her life. Suddenly Sophie's life had changed in ways we could have never anticipated, prepared her for, or understood.
Being the sibling to a child with chronic medical needs is a role that requires special consideration. Whether we were spending a significant amount of time in the hospital, attending the many therapy appointments or answering questions about Gabrielle's health from concerned family, friends, and strangers, Sophie was often a witness to it all.
I was sensitive to including her in every aspect of Gabrielle's life, even in the hospital, so as to normalize what, to others, would be a very different life. Whenever Gabrielle stayed in the hospital overnight, Sophie would be with us after school for our ‘evening routine' of dinner, bath (she would bathe in our hospital bathroom bathtub), and even a book before heading home for bed. My philosophy was that if I could ensure a peaceful experience, it wouldn't matter where we were rather that we were in fact ‘together'.
It is hard to measure the success of the philosophy and strategy in our family since we will never be able to compare our experience to an alternative approach and no two families are the same. However, one of my hopes was to protect the ‘health and wellbeing' of the sibling relationship between Sophie and Gabrielle. I can say with certainty that we were able to accomplish this objective.
Nikki, Mother to Sophie, Gabrielle and Bennett
Navigating the World of Special Education
You have the following class options for your child:
Regular class with indirect support
Regular class with resource assistance
Regular class with withdrawal
Special class with partial integration
Special education class
As a parent, you need to approach the Principal of your local school to set up an initial meeting. Following that meeting, the Principal will schedule a meeting with the IPRC (Identification, Placement, and Review Committee). In preparation for the IPRC, bring along: a photo of your child so the committee considers your child as a person, not a number; an “all about me” document, and the strengths and needs of your child.
Also bring along the document outlining the official diagnosis. Without it, a child can not be formally identified. In Ontario, there is no formal diagnosis for an 'acquired brain injury'. In many cases the child will be listed as LD or a Physical Disability. Often older children have had a Psych Ed Assessment which could yield an official identification. Without a formal diagnosis, the child can still be put on a NIEP (Non-Identified Individual Education Plan). The NIEP carries identical rights and responsibilities, just with no formal identification. The IPRC will provide a recommendation and you will have 30 days to sign. You have 15 days to request a follow-on meeting if you are not happy with their recommendation. If you don't sign within 30 days of a recommendation, the IPRC will implement their decision.
Once your child is placed in a school, the school will prepare an IEP (Individual Education Plan) for your child. The IEP should be finished and agreed to by the 30 th school day of each new school year. As a parent, you should be invited to contribute so be prepared to talk about the strengths and needs of your child, the strategies that have worked for your child, and what your goals are for your child.
Determining what resources are available at your child's school and how to best obtain them is a complicated, and sometimes overwhelming, process.
If you would like help navigating your child's individual education plan (IEP) and the process, the CPSSA has somebody who is a parent of a stroke survivor and a teacher that is willing to assist you. Please direct any inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line IEP Help and we will do our best to respond.
For more information about the IEP in British Columbia, see here: www.bcssa.org
For more information about the IEP in Ontario, see here: www.edu.gov.on.ca
For more information about the IEP in Quebec, see here: www.fcpq.qc.ca
Educating your Child's Class
Some parents may want to speak with, or send a letter home to, the parents of their child's classmates at the beginning of the school year. Be sure to include a photo of your child and what your child is especially good at or interested in. Other parents may welcome the information regarding your child and it may help to better answer some of the questions the kids will ask.
Depending on the age of your child, you may want to involve your child in the presentation to the class. CHASA has a section called “School Talk” that provides sample speeches made my parents to their child's class: http://www.chasa.org/school/school-talks
We invite you to contribute to this website, sharing your experiences and perceptions of the categories above or adding your own category.
Pro-Tips from Parents
- Holland Bloorview has a long waiting list (6- 12 months), so apply as soon as possible
- Every case manager at CCAC is different, you need to become your child's advocate and push for the services you believe that your child can benefit from
- Toronto Preschool Speech & Language has a long waiting list (6-9 months) so apply as soon as possible
- Piedro shoes provide great support, sold by Advanced Orthotic Devices in Mississauga, Ontario
- Snow Flurry boots from Lands End open completely in front to fit an AFO in
- The belt that kids can fasten themselves: www.myselfbelts.com
- Long socks that work great under AFOs are sold at Gymboree and are found at a great price towards the end of the winter season
- Short-sleeve sweatshirts are sold at Target
- Like-a-bikes are great bikes for our kids to learn balance
- You can get out of country funding from the Ministry of Health for programs connected to a hospital but not for a privately run program.
Our family's experience with seizures
Of course, it all began with a seizure. On our son's third day of life, he gasped for breath at home and was rushed to the local hospital whereupon he had three seizures and was transferred to the children's hospital downtown. There, he obtained an MRI and was pronounced to have suffered a neo-natal stroke of unknown origin. After about four weeks of various tests and medications, his specialists chalked it up to ‘birth trauma,' and we were sent home with Phenobarbital, and a list of community service organizations to contact for at-home infant, physical, vision and occupational therapy.
The first time a seizure happened at home after the stroke, it struck Michelle completely out of the blue. She had put our son down to sleep for a nap; when she placed him on the bed, his head began to droop and his breathing began to sound raspy. She immediately picked him up and called for her visiting mother to call 911, not sure what to think, terrified. Then, she paced the hallway with the boy in her arms as he began to convulse, first on the left side, and then all over, waiting impatiently for the paramedics to arrive.
The ambulance arrived and quickly ascertained that our 18 month-old baby was having a tonic-clonic (formerly known as ‘grand mal') seizure. Thankfully, the seizure was stopped with an emergency anti-epileptic drug after approximately 10-12 minutes (long enough to be considered ‘status epilepticus' and able to cause permanent brain damage, but we didn't know that at the time). Our son went on to develop a low-grade fever and tonsillitis. He was ordered to begin taking a low-dose of Keppra, but two more bouts of tonsillitis and two more tonic-clonic seizures later, he was placed on a higher dose of Keppra to try and control his fever-induced seizures.
Because it is not unheard of for the general population to suffer from fever-induced seizures (the percentage is generally agreed upon to be approximately 5%), our son was not diagnosed with epilepsy at 18 months of age, but rather until a later V-EEG (video EEG) revealed frequent focal discharges during sleep in the area where his brain injury occurred (the right occipital-parietal lobes). The working definition of someone who has epilepsy is someone who has had two or more separate seizures. As the fever-induced seizures can be ‘normal' to some, our son's underlying brain injury and frequent focal discharges during sleep were enough to tip the balance in gaining a diagnosis of epilepsy for us.
We've increased his Keppra several times since that first seizure: once after the first and third seizures, once after a routine adenoid/tonsillectomy to ward against possible post-surgery infection, once after the V-EEG revealed his focal discharges, and once again most recently after he had a seizure at home the morning after getting his flu shot last October. Unfortunately, his seizure threshold still remains to be quite low; the Keppra does not appear to be controlling his seizures, although he continues to take it twice daily. However, the doctors feel that the Keppra is likely minimizing seizures, or, minimizing the chance of him having another, more serious seizure. Pediatric stroke survivors have between a 15-50% chance of going on to develop seizures after the brain assault; our son is one of the unlucky ones in that respect.
There are many different types of epilepsy, and thankfully, our son does not have regular daily tonic-clonic seizure activity; many other children live with severe intractable epilepsy. However, watching one's child have a seizure is horrifying; there is nothing one can do after making him/her comfortable, administering the emergency back up medicine, monitoring his/her breathing, and calling the ambulance. Thankfully, our son has been responsive to the back up emergency medication so far, so we are willing to continue with the Keppra and keep our fingers crossed for the future. Keppra is an extremely bitter drug; our son has been taking it for almost three years of his short life. Occasionally, he will tell us that he doesn't like ‘his squirts' (our family nickname for the drug), but he always takes it willingly.
In terms of our day-to-day lives with epilepsy, our son goes to a regular Montessori preschool, and all the teachers are aware of his condition. There are posters with his face smiling down from them in the preschool kitchen and in all of the classrooms, and we have met with his teachers three times in two years to review the seizure emergency procedure and answer any questions they might have. There is also a specially designated ‘sleeping assistant' who often lies down with our son. Thankfully, he has not had a seizure at school or daycare; all four tonic-clonic episodes have taken place at home. Before the preschool, he was in the care of a lovely grandmother at an at-home daycare. She was so committed to monitoring our son that she napped in the same bed as he did everyday for two years.
We can't complain about the care that he has received, but we would be lying if we said that we didn't worry about his health often during the workday, especially during flu and cold season, because in our son's case, the seizure always takes place before the fever hits. Many people associate fever-related seizures with a high temperature, but our son has never had a fever higher than 37.5C; his seizures always take place at the outset of the infection, as the first symptom of an illness. We've been assured that this is very common, but it is also extremely scary, to not have any warning whatsoever. All three times he seized at home, we were taken completely off-guard. They happened even before we could reach the Tylenol.
Cognitively, our son is a superstar. His first Neuropsychological assessment ranked him in the 96 th percentile; his abilities to read, decode and concentrate are all in the ‘superior' range, which is excellent news for his development. At least we know that cognitively, he has not suffered from his nighttime focal discharges, nor from any of his tonic-clonic episodes, welcome news to anxious parents.
At home, we have installed a top-of-the-line seizure monitor under our son's mattress pad. It cost almost $700 and came from Texas last summer. It is considered the ‘gold standard', but still only has a 65% tonic-clonic seizure detection success rate. It has never detected a seizure for our son, but it is very sensitive and has had a few false alarms. If our son is wrestling in his bed, or scratching his leg for too long, the monitor will go off. It also goes off if its batteries are getting low, something that happens every three or four months. Our son used to be fearful of it going off in his bed, but now he is accustomed to its presence and accepts it as his ‘normal'.
During flu and cold season, Michelle chooses to sleep with our son, despite the fact that we have a seizure monitor. A 65% success rate is not high enough for her, and we still enjoy snuggling up together during long winter nights. Fever induced seizures in children typically stop at the age of six or seven (often later in kids with brain injuries), so we don't know how much longer she'll be able to share a bed with him. It's another bridge we'll have to cross one day.
In figuring out how to best discuss our son's seizures with him, we have also bought several books on epilepsy and brain development. We feel it's important to discuss our son's epilepsy with him, and we talk about it with him to normalize his seizures to him as he grows. He's still only four, so we're not sure how much he is retaining, but we intend to continue to educate him and his classmates about epilepsy and pediatric stroke in the years to come. There are so many misconceptions about epilepsy; we feel that by being informed spokespeople, we can best help our son, as well as reach out and dispel people's ideas about this fairly common yet potentially fatal brain disorder.
--Michelle and Tim
Living and Thriving with Stroke
I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. I spent my childhood living my life like every other kid. There would be trips to the mall, snowball fights with my friends and lots time spent with family. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary and I liked it that way. When I was 15, things changed, dramatically. I had a stroke on a Monday morning just before school started for the week.
As my dad called 911, I heard him say, "she had a stroke", and I did not understand what he was talking about. Turns out that I was in for a big learning curve. Once arriving at the Hospital for Sick Children, doctors ordered an MRI and CT scan. The results were that I had just suffered an ischemic stroke. It was later found that I had two holes in my heart which had most likely caused the blood clot to travel to my brain. I had no irregular heartbeat or murmurs prior to my stroke and there after. The only possible sign that there was something wrong before my stroke was that my nail beds had taken a purplish shade - kind of like when you are cold - about 6 months before. The holes in my heart have since been taken care of. I had 3 procedures to fix them.
As I lay on my hospital bed, trying to make sense of what had happened, I decided that I would fight for my independence. According to doctors, I was now a hemiplegic individual that would not walk. I was determined to prove them wrong. I used a wheelchair for the first couple of months, then graduated on to a cane for 6 months until I was able to walk by myself (that is the power of positive thinking!). In the beginning, I had trouble doing everyday things like transferring from bed to walking position, putting my shoes on and tying them, putting my hair up (ponytails were no longer an option). Even using the bathroom, I strived for my independence. Some of my challenges came to me with time and others came by learning a new way of achieving the same result. Transferring from bed to walking position came to me within the first two months of rehabilitation. Re-learning how to tie my shoes or my hair was tough. I went months without having a new method that worked but I kept trying. Eventually, I figured out a way that worked for me.
As for family and friends, I have a limited amount of friends but I know that they would be there for me in a heartbeat if ever needed. My friends either knew me before my stroke or they themselves had suffered through a tragedy themselves. I think that really helped - that understanding between friends is crucial. My sister was also my number one supporter - she took care of me like I was her own.
I have also led a stable relationship with my boyfriend for the past 7 years. He has been my best friend and has always supported me. We have had ups and downs but never because of my stroke.
When I had my stroke, my class found out about it about 2 weeks later. They knew that I had a stroke and that I was in the hospital. When I came back about 5 months later, they were all genuinely really caring. I think that because they knew I was at SickKids, they also knew that it was serious. They did not bully me like I had been afraid of. It also had my teachers and support at school watching me and helping me along the way.
I was first accepted into York University where the class size was at least 300 people. I did not do well because I could not process large amounts of information at once without guidance. It was a really hard for me. It was then I decided to go to college. I went to George Brown College for Financial Management. Now I am going to Algoma University for BBA - Accounting. Its in Sault Ste. Marie but I go to a campus in Brampton. I really liked the setting because they were relatively small and I got to know the teacher and the students. We have all become friends and rely on each other when we are doing assignments and studying for tests.
My parents said that as parents, the one thing to remember is to always encourage your child. They have gone through something that is life altering and knowing that you, the parents are ALWAYS there for them, means the world. I also encourage parents to be very vocal about this. Let your child know that you love them, that they mean the world to you.
By Sarah M, stroke survivor
My name is Nik. When I was 8 years old, I had 2 strokes and today, at 17, I'm doing great! I play drums and sing in a band, I love bowling and wakeboarding, can solve a Rubik's cube one-handed in under 2 minutes, and am an international level swimmer. I didn't say it was easy getting from there to here, but hey, no pain no gain. Here's my story.
I was like any other boy in Grade 3 – I loved playing hockey and snowboarding in winter, and riding my bike and wakeboarding in summer. I had great marks at school and lots of friends. The day of my stroke was a warm and sunny winter day – perfect for tobogganing. After a few runs down the hill behind my house, we headed to my friend's place for lunch and video games. My dad picked me up from there and we went to the pond for hockey with some of my friends and their dads. It was a great game and we were having lots of fun. Suddenly, I felt really sick and couldn't talk or move, then I passed out. My dad took me to the hospital and I was transferred to SickKids. That's when they said I'd had a stroke!
When I came to, I found that I couldn't move my right side and I couldn't talk. I was pretty scared but there were lots of great doctors, nurses and therapists who all worked to help me learn to eat, move and talk again. But I wasn't getting better. After about a week, I had another stroke and things went from bad to worse. They had to do a craniotomy, which means they took out a large piece of my skull to relieve pressure on my brain. Since they didn't put my “piece” back for 6 months, I had to wear a bright blue helmet for protection until then. I looked a little like a confused astronaut!
After SickKids I went to live at Holland Bloorview for those 6 months until my next surgery. This made me really sad that I couldn't go home. I didn't understand what had happened and missed my friends - I even missed my school! Pretty soon though, I got in thick with the other kids on my ward and I almost didn't want to leave. We did therapy together, had wheelchair water gun fights, played hide and seek (driving the nurses crazy!), and relaxed in the lounge area at night cheering on our favourite teams during the playoffs. I also was determined to do everything I could to improve and worked very hard to regain my speech, to learn how to navigate the world with half my vision gone, to learn to walk with an AFO, and to teach my left hand how to do be dominant and do things on its own. I challenged myself in every way I could think of (remember the Rubik's cube thing?). Finally, I had my piece put back and I entered Grade 4.
At first all my friends were great. At school they would gather round to help me out. Kids would come visit at my house and think of ways we could do stuff together. But as time went on, they realized that I wasn't going to go back to the way I used to be and they began to drift away. This was a very lonely period but lucky for me I have a great family and they thought of all kinds of things to help me keep busy and stay active. We had to let some of my favourite activities go (doctor's orders!) but we also found new ways to do some of them and also found new activities.
Of course through all of this there was lots and lots of therapy which we did for about another 2 years. We tried everything out there and participated in all kinds of studies. I really hated and resented having to do this while the other kids just got to play and I suspect that I wasn't a very pleasant patient! Somehow I stuck with it and looking back, I think it all helped in some way and contributed to my overall recovery. Finally we decided it was enough and I moved on to regular life activities for therapy.
I joined a junior bowling league and I admit I was pretty brutal bowling all lopsided but little by little I improved and obtained scores that were average for my age. I wanted to get back up on my wakeboard – which took a lot of fast talking to get my mom to agree - and after a gazillion tries, I got the hang of it and do a reasonable job of that now too. I'm not allowed to do jumps and flips but at least I'm wakeboarding again and looking very cool at it if I do say so myself! Basketball didn't work out so great as I kept tripping over my right foot which just didn't want to listen to my brain.
This led me to explore parasport options. I soon discovered that most of these sports are designed for people that are cut in half horizontally, not vertically like me. Wheelchair basketball and sledge hockey were both difficult with one hand and also had a high impact risk which was a no-no for me.
Anyway, I gravitated back to my first love which was swimming. I had been in the pool since I was 6 weeks old and could swim on my own at 18 months. At 13 I decided to give it another try. My family moved to Kingston and I hooked up with the largest swim team in Canada for kids with disabilities and their siblings. My first day back in the pool I pretty much sunk to the bottom – it was very weird swimming with 1 arm and 1 leg! My coach is tough and kept at me. She still doesn't let me get away with anything. I practice 5 days a week and have become stronger and regained my balance as a result of all this exercise. There are 40 kids on my team and we have a blast. We train hard together during the week and then hang out on the weekends. We are each others' best friends because we get it – we understand each others' challenges, we celebrate each others' successes, and we support each other in everything we do.
Swimming is the best thing that's ever happened to me and it has given me all kinds of opportunities I otherwise might not have had. I'm now an international level swimmer and hold 2 Canadian records. It's allowed me to see some of the world through training and competition in places like Florida, Arizona, California and Mexico. My goal is to compete at the Paralympic games. Although I achieved the Paralympic standard for the London 2012 games, I missed the Canadian team qualifying time by a hair. Since I'm not the type to give up, I've now set my sights on the Rio de Janeiro 2016 games and like I did after my strokes, will work as hard as it takes to get there!
One thing I found out during my recovery is that people that have strokes often have depression. After losing so much physically, taking longer to do schoolwork and losing my friends all were tough pills to swallow and I also ended up with depression. Anyway, I made sure I shared my feelings with my family and was able to get treatment for help with this. I'm on medication and have sessions with a therapist who specializes in kids with brain injuries. I guess we have different challenges than other kids since strokes affect us not only physically, but also socially and emotionally. It's been great to get help with a lot of these things and I'm feeling great again.
I want to encourage you to hold your head up when the other kids don't understand, to stay true to yourself, to find a sport that will let you stay active and healthy, and to never give up. Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
By Nik T.
If you would like to contact Nik or his family to learn more about his road to recovery, please contact the CPSSA and we will make the introduction.
I, Alexander Murtha have accomplished much in my life as a stroke survivor from infancy. Presently, I am eighteen years of age. After my stroke, my parents were not sure on what would happen to me in the future but that they loved me and care for me as I grew old. I as an infant had seizures, as I got older had much trouble in my own speech and would repeat a single action several times. As time went on with the help of my parents and doctors my speech cleared up and the repetitive actions were stopped (the seizures were only in the first year of my life). For the most part I acted like any other child at my age.
At the age of six I was playing basketball in the Borden Minor Basketball Association with many other children. At the end of the year I was the runner-up in speed dribbling and are on team had a very good season that year.
When I was seven I went into piano practice in which I did until my schedule became too full for it at the age of twelve nearing thirteen. In those six years I competed in the Barrie Kiwanis Music Festival and won Second Place. I also passed the Royal Conservatory of Music examination in Introductory Piano.
In the March of 2008 I received my Bronze Star in swimming from the Lifesaving Society.
In 2011 I was given a certificate for a well-made speech in my parish community and in this past school year I made a second speech that was sent to the provincial level.
My schooling is different to most people. Home schooled that I am, I have worked through all my elementary grades and am part way through a highly academic high school worked out upon the computer. I am able to work at my own pace and I have received high grades from them.
From the September of 2006 to the present (soon to age out in January 2013) I have been an active member of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets in the Canadian Cadet Organizations. In the summer of 2009 I earned three qualifications. The first was St. John's Ambulance Standard First Aid and level C CPR, the second was The Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons issued Restricted Operator's Certificate (Maritime) (radio operator ‘s card), and the last being the Pleasure Craft Operator's Card (boating license) accredited by the Canadian Coast Guard.
In June 2010 I passed the White Sail level Two examination at my home corps from the Canadian Yachting Association.
Throughout my cadet career I have participated in and competed in marksmanship competitions earning both my Distinguished Marksman and Rifle Coach Qualifications, thus becoming the Top Marksman in my home corps.
Late August in 2010 I was selected as one of three Sea Cadets from Ontario and one of fifteen Sea Cadets from all across Canada to be deployed on board a Tall ship on the west coast and work as the crew for three weeks sailing up the coast from Comox on Vancouver Island a thousand nautical miles to Kitimat around Fifty kilometers away from the British Columbia/Alaska Border.
On the subject of awards I received Cadet of the Year twice in a row at the home corps and in recognition of exemplary personal dress, deportment, knowledge and skill in cadet training, and exceptional leadership qualities. I received the Navy League of Canada Award Medal of excellence.
In the summer of 2011 received the selection to attend a Sea Cadet Summer Training Center on the east coast in Nova Scotia. In that summer I earned the qualifications to work in the field of Damage Control in fighting fires and slowing the flooding on board a simulated ship, and the ability to drive a whaler (two metric ton weighing boat that can be used in motor, sail, and pulling (rowing) power). Last of all, that summer I was able to perform in an important Naval ceremony called the Ceremony of the Flags where I wore the traditional sailor blues and fired off a World War Two 3.03 calibre Lee enfield rifle with blank cartridges at Cornwallis, Annapolis Royal, and in Halifax.
I have maintained a good degree in physical fitness since I started exercising at the early age of six. Over the years I have competed in many home school track and field meets and now running in cross country races. I especially had to do a high leveled fitness test to do the tall ship deployment on the west coast.
This ends my Autobiography of accomplishments as a stroke survivor thus far and I already have plans to complete in the future. Most importantly this summer I hope to go on a deployment with the Canadian Coast Guard or take a teaching position at a Sea Cadet Summer Training Center. Other than that I plan to hopefully go into a marine navigation field of expertise either in the civilian, naval, or coast guard. Thank-you very much for this opportunity express my experiences as a stroke survivor.
By Alexander Murtha
Believing in Yourself
When my daughter was only a few months old, I noticed that something wasn't quite right. A year and a half or so later, when I finally received a diagnosis, the good news was that I was no longer under suspicion for having somehow harmed her, as had been communicated to me on so many occasions. The bad news, was that for some unknown reason, she had suffered a stroke.
Worst of all, the specialist who gave me the diagnosis said that as a result of the stroke, my daughter would probably never walk, would most likely be developmentally delayed, and that in his opinion, "it wouldn't be worth the trouble" to do anything.
I had felt such fear that I might be accused of somehow having caused my daughter's condition but it was nothing compared to how devastated I felt at that moment. I simply could not reconcile the limitations being placed on my baby with the perceptiveness that I saw in those bright eyes. What followed was a very difficult time in my life as I tried to figure out how to help my daughter, regardless of what I had been told.
Looking back, whether it was standing up for myself when I knew, with absolute certainty, that all I had done was love my daughter and do my very best to take care of her, or pushing against the limitations that were continuously being placed on her, the key was finding ways to stay focussed, continue believing in myself and most of all, believing in my daughter.
Now, more than a decade later, my daughter is a vibrant, fluently bilingual young girl who loves sports and even plays the violin. She has learned to work hard, she is inherently accepting of others, she has already learned what it feels like to be discriminated against, how important it is to stand up for yourself and most importantly, how critical it is to believe in yourself. That's what I see in her eyes now, along with the perceptiveness that has been there all along.
Helene, mother to Amelia and Charlotte