‘We are immensely proud of him’

Alex with his mum Angela, dad Mike and sister Gwen (3)
Alex with his mum Angela, dad Mike and sister Gwen (3)

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  • Alex Roantree-Roesch had a severe stroke aged seven
  • He had to learn to walk and talk again
  • Has now been given an award from the Stroke Association for his amazing progress
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Beaming with pride, mixed with a little exasperation, Mike and Angela Roantree-Roesch watch as their son Alex, 11, races around the house.

Like mini tornados, he and three-year-old sister Gwen run around, giddy with pre-Christmas excitement.

But Angela lets out a sigh as she recalls how different Christmas was four years ago when Alex, then seven, had a huge stroke which left him paralysed down the right side of his body.

He was so ill that he had to spend seven months in hospital recuperating.

But in the past four years Alex has made an incredible recovery and has won a big award for his progress.

At a formal ceremony in Southampton, Alex received the Highly Commended Life After Stroke Award from the Stroke Association in recognition of his courage and determination.

Dad Mike, 44, said: ‘We kept it a secret from him but got him all dressed up.

Alex was like a newborn baby. He was unable to do anything for himself. He had to learn to do everything again

Mike Roantree-Roesch

‘He didn’t have a clue but when he realised what was going on, he really milked it!’

Angela says: ‘I nominated him for the award because he does so well every day.

‘He tries everything just to say he has tried to do it.’

It was three days before Christmas in 2011 while watching television that the stroke happened.
Angela was four months pregnant and out shopping getting the final bits for Christmas.
Mike heard a thud and went into the lounge to find Alex on the floor.

He says: ‘I picked him up and tried to stand him up, but he was all floppy.

‘His ankle was at right angles to his leg. It couldn’t take any weight.

‘At which point I got a little bit panicky and called an ambulance.’

That was the start of a nightmare 48 hours for the family.

Angela says: ‘At the time, stroke was the lesser of two evils.

‘We were told originally that they could see a legion and that it could possibly be a tumour.

‘Our hearts sank. It wasn’t until we got to Southampton General Hospital and we saw a specialist that it was a stroke due to the chickenpox virus.’

Alex had had chicken pox nine months before the stroke.

And doctors could find no other cause for the brain attack.

Although rare, strokes have a recognised link to chickenpox.

According to the Stroke Association, one child in 25,000 suffers a stroke as a result of the virus because it shrinks the arteries.

Although they were relieved it was not cancer, the stroke was severe.

Mike, who works in IT, says: ‘Alex was like a new born baby.

‘He was unable to do anything for himself. He had to learn to do everything again.’

It took four months for Alex to be able to walk again.

And he still has daily physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy to try and get function back to his hand.

Angela says: ‘He has right sided hemiplegia – which is a weakness of his side. For example, opening a crisp packet is easy to us but he has no ability to grip. He does not have the fine motor function.

‘He suffers with fatigue and needs a wheelchair because he gets so tired which makes him unstable,’

But that does not hold Alex back for a moment.

The youngster, of Coronado Road, Gosport, has never let his problems stop him from doing what he wants to do.

He adores karate and swimming and works hard at the both.

Mike says: ‘We’ve found that as long as Alex likes doing things he is more likely to put effort into them.

‘Karate and swimming are great because they help his co-ordination and balance.

‘And we’ve managed to get him into a club where there is a no hits to the head policy.’

It was a tough few years for the family, worrying about Alex’s physical health.

But, emotionally, he is a very strong young man.

Proud mum Angela says: ‘He can do most things any other child can do. He runs around and he’ll give anything a go.

‘In PE he will have a go at everything.

‘He never sits there and says “Why me? Why does this happen to me?”

‘He never wallows or gets upset about it, he just gets on with it.’

Alex remembers very little about the time of the stroke, fortunately.

He was watching cartoons at the time.

He says: ‘I began crying but nothing happened when I cried.

‘I tried to move my arm and suddenly I was beginning to lose control. Daddy saw me and called the ambulance.’

After that his only memories are of having school classes in hospital while he was rehabilitating.

He had to drop down a year at Newtown Primary School because he missed so much of the academic year but is very bright and loves computer games.

Angela says: ‘We are immensely proud of him.

‘Every day he is always smiling, always happy. He is never sad.’

To see a video of Alex and his family go to portsmouth.co.uk.

CHILDHOOD STROKES

Childhood stroke affects around five out of every 100,000 children a year in the UK.

A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.

An ischaemic stroke is caused by a blockage in the blood supply to the brain.

Anhaemorrhagic stroke occurs when blood leaks from a burst vessel into the brain.

In adults, 80 per cent of strokes are caused by a blockage and 20 per cent by a bleed in the brain. In children, both types of stroke are equally common.

Alex Roantree-Roesch and his family have received huge supporport from two charities, the Stroke Associaiton and ARNI.

The Stroke Association proivdes invaluable information and support to the family.

ARNI, Action for Rehabilitation from Neurologicial Injury, is a small charity which has been helping Alex’s rehabilitation at home.

They also help broadcaster Andrew Marr who suffered a stroke. Alex and his mum Angela were invited to Andrew’s book launch at Downing Street by ARNI.

Go to stroke.org.uk and arni.uk.com.