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Cameron's Story

Cameron smiling looking at the camera
With just weeks remaining until summer break, 4-year-old Cameron and his family of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.), were preparing to enjoy Memorial Day weekend at their cottage. Cameron was also excited for the summer ahead with plans of jumping on his new trampoline and playing his first organized sport of t-ball with friends. Then, the unexpected happened.

“I was packing the car and getting things organized for our trip and I noticed Cameron began, kind of whining and rolling around on the floor,” said his mother, Sarah. “I thought he was just cranky at first. Then I noticed the entire left side of his body was limp. I sat him up and he immediately just slumped over.”

Sarah, who works in health care herself, noticed right away the left side of Cameron’s face was drooping. She quickly realized he was having a stroke or possibly a seizure, then rushed him to the nearest emergency department. 

“We were fortunate to have an ER close to our home and our local doctors started performing tests right away to see what was happening,” said Sarah. “When they were performing their tests, we noticed that Cameron had no function in his left arm, leg and left side of his face.”

Doctors quickly recommended Cameron be transported by ambulance to a hospital that specializes in children’s care. Because of her medical background, Sarah was aware of available children’s hospitals, but HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital in Green Bay was the closest.

Located within the walls of HSHS St. Vincent Hospital, HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital is Green Bay’s first and only children’s hospital serving Northeast Wisconsin, the Lakeshore and the U.P. 

“Being that we’re in a rural part of the U.P., the drive could have been upwards of five hours to get the care he needed. We chose HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital because we could get Cameron there quicker than any of the other hospitals.”

In addition to being the closest, Cameron was in the best of hands at HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital - with direct access to HSHS St. Vincent Hospital’s Comprehensive Stroke Center and the area’s only pediatric neurologist in partnership with Prevea Health. The stroke center is staffed with multidisciplinary teams, also in partnership with Prevea, offering the highest quality in stroke care and rehabilitation to children when they need it.

“We immediately were seen by a neurologist, someone who specializes in diseases of the brain,” Sarah recalled. said. “One of the first things our doctors did was order an MRI, a test that determined he in fact did have a stroke caused by a blood clot.”

Sarah and her husband had a hard time comprehending how their son could have a stroke at such a young age. Their team of doctors explained that it can happen, especially if a child is exposed to multiple infections. The young couple then remembered their preschooler was exposed to several illnesses during his first year of school including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), COVID-19 and influenza. Cameron’s doctors explained that sometimes these infections can lead to inflammation in the blood which, in turn, can contribute to the uncommon circumstance of a child having a stroke.

As is in all cases of stroke, Cameron needed treatment right away. In Cameron’s situation, he needed to be treated for more than just a stroke. Fortunately, he was in the right place at HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital where patients have access to more than 60 different types of pediatric specialties in partnership with Prevea. 

“They said the blood clot had broken up and it couldn’t cause any more damage,” recalled Sarah. “It was such a relief to hear he would not need brain surgery.” 

Cameron received the life-saving treatment he needed thanks to the stroke team, pediatric neurologist, pediatric hematologists, pediatric intensivists and other specialists at HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital. Now, it was time for recovery.

Due to the stroke, Cameron lost the majority of function in the left side of his body. To help him regain strength and mobility, Cameron’s team of caregivers created a blueprint for the next best steps towards recovery. This included a consistent regiment of physical therapy and occupational therapy, and care in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). 

Upon seeing their room in the PICU, Sarah found herself appreciative for what they were offered in such a trying time. Cameron’s room was equipped with everything they needed – a place for mom and dad to sleep, private bathrooms, and child-friendly amenities including color-changing lights and entertainment options.

“The room was absolutely amazing compared to any hospital setting I’ve seen,” said Sarah. “There were homemade blankets on Cameron’s bed, a pillowcase with a fire engine on it, a smart tv and a Lego set so Cameron could build his trucks. This was exactly what our family needed at the time - some comfort.”

Down the hall, Cameron’s family also had access to a family lounge with food, drink and snacks; a space to wash and dry their own laundry; a teen lounge equipped with digital and board games; and a video rental machine stocked full of family favorites.

Cameron’s mom, dad and grandmother all spent the first night at HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital alongside him. His room offered comfort, an opportunity to stay together, and perhaps above all, a sense of home. They were prepared for a lengthy recovery process at the hospital but felt reassured by their team of pediatric specialists that Cameron could bounce back and hopefully regain function in the left side of his body.

“Our physical therapist, who Cameron started working with the very first morning of our stay, prepared us for the potential that our boy may not be able to move his left arm or leg again in the same ways that he could,” said Sarah. “But he was also very optimistic and frequently reassured us that Cameron had resiliency because of his young age. He shared that our son was more than capable of making progress.” 

Within a couple of weeks of his ongoing therapy, Cameron began using his left arm once again and cuddling his mother at night with what they called his “lazy arm.” The progression of recovery may have felt slow, but it felt good for his mom to see the steady improvements he was making thanks to the care he was receiving.

“Me and my husband started noticing how every single day he was making strides through physical therapy,” said Sarah. “One morning during therapy, about a week after being there, he was able to take about six steps on his own. We were so happy. Then that afternoon, he was able to take about 20 steps!”

Every day, Cameron continued to show improvements in his walking and the use of his arm. His physical and occupational therapists at HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital worked with him for two weeks, finding fun ways for him to engage in walking, swinging his arms and even crawling to improve his movements. 

Another major contributing factor to Cameron’s recovery was the eye catching, 18-foot-wide by 8-foot-tall interactive video wall located within HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital. The interactive video wall is designed for kids and families to watch movies, dance and play games. The oversized monitor, equipped with motion sensors, encouraged Cameron to move his body and interact with a favorite game he ultimately mastered after countless hours of play.

“Cameron and his therapists would play that game and have so much fun,” said Sarah. “That game helped him regain his balance and strength so much. He would play for hours on end. Sometimes doctors and other staff would even join in with his therapists. He just kept getting stronger and stronger and eventually he got the high score in his favorite game.”

Following two weeks of rehabilitation at HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital, Cameron was ready to go home. While his doctors initially thought he would be in the hospital for at least three to four weeks, Cameron’s willingness to push himself, under the care of his therapists and pediatric specialists, lead to him going home in just 20 days.

“It was kind of bittersweet news,” said Sarah. “All of my family had formed bonds with our nurses, doctors and therapists by then. They were there for every step of our journey. We honestly couldn’t have asked to have been cared for at a better hospital.”

Back on his feet and back to himself, once again, Cameron and his family headed back home to the U.P. While they continue to bring their 4-year-old to physical therapy at a site closer to their home, Sarah says Cameron remains fond of the memories of HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital and the experts there who helped him back to his old, young self.