Inspirational Elena nominated for national award

April 03, 2023

A four-year-old girl who defied doctors odds to survive a huge stroke has been named a finalist in the 2023 Stroke Foundation Stroke Awards.

Little Elena Lu was at childcare with her twin sister Annabelle in June 2021 when she had a seizure. She was kept in hospital overnight for observation and was about to be discharged when she experienced a stroke.

Her father Mark Mingjie Lu said Elena, who was two and a half at the time, was rushed to Sydney Children’s Hospital where doctors performed lifesaving surgery to remove part of her skull and a blood clot that was pushing on her brain.

“It was the longest three hours of our lives. The doctor said that he was able to remove the clots but too much damage had been done, and she was unlikely to survive,” Mr Lu said.

“A social worker told us to enjoy every moment and live by the minute, so every minute that went by was a win to us because she was surviving. She made it through the night and then continued to defy the odds.”

“It was such a challenging time. My wife was juggling our two other children while I worked as a dentist six days a week. We had no family nearby and were isolated because of COVID.”

After eight weeks in the ICU, Elena was transferred to a rehab ward where she spent the next four months recovering. She was finally discharged just three days before Christmas.

“We went on holiday the very next day. The whole experience made us realise life is short and you need to make new memories,” he said.

Elena has lost full function on her righthand side, more than half of her brain function and is unable to eat and swallow properly.

“Elena is stubborn and determined, she’s a fighter who embraces life and every opportunity. Although she can’t physically interact with us, she has developed emotionally, she smiles more and even throws tantrums like any other child,” Mr Lu said.

“She goes to dancing once a week with her sister, to the local swimming pool, and she recently went on a plane for the first time. We want her to have a normal childhood full of happy memories.

“Elena is my greatest inspiration and motivates me to get up each day.”

Stroke is one of Australia’s biggest killers and a leading cause of disability. Around 600 Australian children have a stroke each year.

Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Dr Lisa Murphy applauded Elena on all that she has achieved.

“Elena has shown great resilience through her recovery journey and is an inspiration to her family,” Dr Murphy said.

The Stroke Awards celebrate the unsung heroes in our community who go above and beyond to improve the lives of Australians affected by stroke. This includes survivors of stroke, carers, volunteers, fundraisers, health professionals and researchers.  

The Stroke Warrior Award recognises children and teens (aged 18 and under) who have raised awareness of stroke, supported the recovery of a loved one, or shown drive and resilience in their own recovery.  

The finalists are:  

  • Elena Lu, New South Wales 
  • Jackson King, Queensland 
  • Noah Barlow, Victoria 

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Melbourne on May 4, 2023.

The 2023 Stroke Awards are supported by Major Sponsor, Bristol Myers Squibb - Pfizer, and Award Sponsors AbbVie, Allevi8, Australian Physiotherapy AssociationIpsen, NAB Community, and Precision Fundraising, agency of Precision Group