Although it was only a little over a year old, Nolan Morel is a real charmer. Wearing a red shirt and navy braces, he launches a happy smile to his mother, Rosalia; his physician, Dr. Laura Lehman ; and the others in the room. "Look at these dimples!" Someone rolls, and he laughs in response. "I can not believe how social it is," laughs Rosalia. "It was not always like that."
In fact, the first days of Nolan's life were anything but light. A few hours after he was born in a hospital north of Boston, he stopped breathing and had to be manually resuscitated and given oxygen. When these scary episodes continued the next day, his doctors contacted the critical care transport team at the Boston Children's Hospital.
Concerned that the newborn was convulsing, the team quickly transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of Boston Children . "My heart sank," recalls Rosalia. "I started crying in a cold hospital bed, unable to be with my child when he needed me the most." As soon as she was sufficiently recovered to get out of the maternity ward she was also going to Boston.
The Difficult News
There, she met her husband, Miguel, and then with Dr. Lehman of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center who shared devastating news. "She gave us a sad smile and gave us Nolan's diagnosis," says Rosalia: A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examination showed that the little boy had suffered a stroke during or after birth. About two-thirds of the right hemisphere of his brain had been affected.
The next nine days were fuzzy with meetings and appointments. While a nursing staff was supervising him at the NICU, the Morel met the Nolan care team to learn about stroke, its potential effects and treatments. which he would need. "They explained what his life might look like," says Rosalia. "They thought that he could walk with support and need extra help in school."
But even though they were worried for the future, Rosalia and Miguel found that they could still focus on the present without being overworked. At the NICU, a social worker gave them advice on how best to share the news of their son's diagnosis with family and friends. A specialist of the life of the child took pictures of the family in order to bring back good memories of the birth of Nolan. "All the staff really cared about Nolan as if he was their own child," says Rosalia.
A bright future after a stroke
This sense of family goes back to the Nolan care team. "Dr. Lehman has always been very available by phone or email when we have questions, and she helps us feel empowered," says Rosalia. "She treats us like a family, and we consider her as part of ours. "
Once shy of strangers – a natural consequence of being constantly examined by clinicians – Nolan has blossomed. The regular physiotherapy and occupational therapy help him to better control his muscles, while diet therapy helped him to master swallowing. He loves playing music, playing alone or with his older sister, Hazel, and walking around his house.
Especially, says Rosalia, his son continues to prosper. "Nolan is doing very well," she says. "It's a happy boy." As he once again shows these adorable dimples to Dr. Lehman, it is clear that she is right.
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