A South Florida 5-year-old has been through a lot after he had a rare medical emergency.
The struggle started a year ago when Gabriel Parra was at school. His parents received a call they wished they never had.
“It was a Monday. They called us and said ‘Gabriel is very sick. Can you come to school and see him cause he’s very sick,’ and we’re like, 'how sick can he be?’” recalled Gabriel’s father, Edgar Parra.
At first, the 5-year-old’s condition was confusing to his parents and doctors.
“He was just very, like very drunk, dizzy. He couldn’t open his eyes. The doctors didn’t know what was wrong. They thought he might have taken a pill or something from somewhere,” Parra said.
His parents were shocked by the diagnosis that followed.
“The doctor came out and she explained to us what was the problem, and she said “this is like winning the bad lottery,’” Parra recalled.
After a series of tests and scans, doctors determined that Gabriel had suffered a stroke and a brain bleed. The underlying health issue is AVM, Arteriovenous Malformation, an abnormal tangling of blood vessels in the brain. Little Gabriel was left nearly paralyzed.
“Hard to watch. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t talk. He could barely move his legs,” Parra explained.
His road to recovery began there.
“When I initially met him, Gabriel was extremely weak,” said Carolina Galindo.
She’s a Physical Therapist at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
“He couldn’t roll in a bed, he couldn’t move on his own, he had no muscle strength. I actually did a full muscle test and everything came out zero,” said Galindo.
Over the past several months, Gabriel has made tremendous improvements through physical therapy and under the guidance of his medical team.
“Every single day, every moment, they’re working with him and he is a perfect example of how there is hope and how if you work hard and have everything behind you, you can actually achieve amazing things and he’s definitely our miracle child,” said Dr. Seema Khurana, who works at the Department of Physical Medicine Rehabilitation at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
His parents keep finding the strength to stay positive.
“Mom is a hero. She always finds a way to motivate him,” said Parra as his eyes filled up with tears.
The emotions are still raw and the severity of what happened still looms over the family, but little Gabriel is closer than ever to getting back to a routine, to a time when he can go to school like all the other kids.
While pediatric strokes are uncommon, they can happen to any child and it's important to act immediately when there is a sudden onset of symptoms. According to the American Stroke Association, the warning signs include:
- Severe sudden headache, especially with vomiting and sleepiness
- Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body (face, arm and/or leg)
- Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding others
- Sudden trouble seeing to one side or loss of vision
- Sudden difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- New-onset of seizures usually on one side of the body