Video: First Grader Survives Stroke From Moyamoya Disease

Meet a child who survived a stroke and had a unique brain surgery

First grader survives stroke

Did you know that stroke is one of the top 10 killers of children? This statistic may come as a shock, but kids can have strokes for a number of different reasons, including moyamoya disease.

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That was the case for Ohio first grader Erica Wilcox, who survived a stroke and a unique brain surgery and is overcoming this rare disease.

Symptoms started in her right hand. When you’re 6 years old and your right hand just stops working, you compensate.


“I noticed she had the pencil in her left hand, and knowing she’s not left handed, I said, ‘What are you doing?’” says Leann Wilcox, Erica’s mother. “And I said, ‘Put the pencil in your right hand,’ and she told me she couldn’t. When I handed her the pencil, she grasped it [in her fist], and when she went to write, it took her entire arm to make her hand move.”

It had started with a ‘fizziness’ in her right hand, but by the end of the day she couldn’t write or even get dressed. A trip to the emergency room came next.

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Initially, Erica was diagnosed with a brain tumor, but after more testing, doctors determined that she had a stroke due to moyamoya, a rare brain disease that includes constricted arteries.

“The fundamental problem with moyamoya is an inadequate blood supply to the brain, so surgically we need to improve the blood supply to the brain,” says Peter Rasmussen, MD, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Cerebrovascular Center.

Patients with moyamoya will have additional strokes or brain hemorrhages as the disease progresses, so a pair of surgeries — one for each side of her brain — was Erica’s only option.

“Predominately, the method used in children is called an EDAMS operation,” Dr. Rasmussen says. “There’s a large chewing muscle that’s present on the side of our head, and we free up that chewing muscle … and just lay that muscle on the surface of the brain.”

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The brain signals the muscle to create new arteries. Erica’s brain gets the blood it needs, and the risk of stroke diminishes.

“About two weeks post the second surgery,” Mrs. Wilcox says, “she came to us and said, ‘Mommy, the tingling is gone,’ and she’s favoring the right hand again.”

Just over a month after her last surgery, Erica is back to her old self. She’s still working on gaining strength in her right hand, but once fall comes around, she’ll be allowed to play outside and participate in gym class again.

Dr. Rasmussen says if your child’s arm or leg is not working properly, you should consider it an emergency and take your child to the emergency room. If it is a stroke, it should be treated as soon as symptoms begin.

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