Sophie’s brother Elliot was key to her recovery.
Amanda and Jamie knew right away that their four-year-old daughter Sophie had had a stroke.
Sophie came out of the playroom, and she could no longer speak. Jamie called an ambulance immediately, and Sophie was given life-saving treatment within hours.
Sophie’s stroke was the start of a new life for their family. “We just started from the beginning,” says Amanda. “It's just new. It's different. It can be exciting, it can be scary, but it’s there, and we just needed to move forward.”
“We were so grateful just to have her. But then we got to see her say her first word again, take her first step again. She crawled again, she walked again. All those things, we got to experience twice.”
Amanda says the experience also helped her family to find strength and support together. “We leant on the people around us to give us strength. We realised who we could rely on.”
This includes Sophie’s younger brother Elliot, who became a key person in Sophie’s recovery. “If she had to get a needle, she would take Elliot with her. He was two and a half years old, and he would sit there and hold her hand and say ‘It’s okay. Don’t cry.’”
Amanda was very conscious of making Elliot a part of Sophie’s recovery. “We wanted therapy to be as inclusive as possible. If Sophie had to go to a physiotherapist to learn to ride a bike, I took Elliot along. We pick activities that everyone can do, all the normal stuff you do in childhood.”
Amanda also wanted to let Sophie know she could do anything she wanted, and that it was okay for her to take risks and make mistakes. “I tell her, “You have hemiplegia. You have learning challenges. But you have an opportunity to be anything you want, and I will support you the whole way.”
“From the beginning, if she wanted to climb a tree, we let her do it. She was only going to fall out. We wanted her to have fun and just be a kid” says Amanda.
Amanda is grateful for the treatment and support Sophie has received. “Stroke doesn’t care where you live or what financial demographic you are. There definitely are divides. We want everyone to get the same treatment that Sophie has.”
Asked for advice for other parents of childhood stroke survivors, Amanda doesn’t hesitate to say, “Find the joy in every day. There is crazy fun ahead.”
‘It’s the beginning of a different journey. It’s not a better journey, it’s not a worse journey. We can still learn to ride bikes and climb trees. If your kid falls and scrapes their knee, that’s okay, and it’s all right if they aren’t what they were before the stroke.”
Amanda also says involving siblings in the recovery process adds a new dimension to family life, and greatly benefits the other children in the family. “Elliot is the best, most compassionate, dedicated little kid I have ever met. It’s because he's seen how hard we, as a family, have worked.”
Amanda wants to save the last word for Sophie. “There was this time when I was in the kitchen crying because I was overwhelmed, and Sophie asked me why I was crying,” she says. I said to her “I'm just cross. It's unfair.”
“Sophie said to me ‘Stroke made me who I am today. I am stronger because of it.’ That was three years ago, and since then, I’ve known that my daughter was going to be just fine.”