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Press release
Thursday 15 February 2024

Toddler survives rare stroke thanks to experts at Southampton Children's Hospital

A boy who suffered a rare stroke at the age of two has survived and is making a remarkable recovery thanks to quick acting parents and an expert medical team at Southampton Children’s Hospital (SCH).

The parents of Carter Bayley were told to prepare for the worst as he was rushed into the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) to try and reduce the brain swelling. The toddler had suffered a rare form of stroke that effects less than 100 children a year in the UK. 

But now, thanks to the expertise of paediatric intensive care, the neurology teams and a specialist neurological rehabilitation team at SCH Carter returned home just in time to celebrate his third birthday. 

Carter, from Crowthorne in Berkshire, was having a bath when his mum Elise and dad Lawrence noticed a sudden drop on the right-hand side of his face.  

Initially thinking it was an allergic reaction, his parents gave Carter a dose of Piriton and his face returned to normal. But moments later Carter’s face dropped again, and they knew something wasn’t right.  

Elise said: “I think I knew it was a stroke after that, I remembered seeing the Act FAST campaign featuring an older gentleman on TV and it looked the same. I had never heard of a toddler having a stroke before, but I just knew we had to get him to hospital”. 

Carter was rushed by ambulance to his local hospital where the decision was made to transfer him via the Southampton and Oxford Retrieval Team [SORT] to SCH, a regional centre for paediatric neurology. 

The youngster had suffered an arterial ischemic stroke within the middle cerebral artery [MCA] on the left-hand side of his brain – described as ‘rare’ in a two-year-old.  

He was admitted to the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) where he was put into a medically induced coma, stabilised and neuro-protected - a strategy which aims to slow the progression of the loss of brain neurons. 

With this type of stroke there is a high risk of the brain swelling, so Carter remained closely monitored by the clinical team, with frequent scans, over his several days in PICU. 

Elise added: "It was the worst time for us all. We were told Carter's type of stroke was severe and to prepare for the worst, but we were always hopeful. Nobody could tell us for sure what the future was going to look like and if Carter would survive". 

After four days of round-the clock care, Carter made significant improvement and was transferred to the paediatric high dependency unit where he started an intensive rehabilitation programme with the Southampton Children’s Integrated Rehabilitation Team [SCIRT] - a specialist multi-disciplinary team at SCH that runs alongside a child’s medical and surgical needs.  

Southampton is just one of a handful of children’s hospitals in the UK that has such a unique service, enabling rehab to begin at the earliest stage of recovery. 

Dr Georgina Bird-Lieberman, consultant paediatric neurologist and SCIRT lead, explained: “Carter suffered a severe stroke and was initially put to sleep in intensive care to protect his brain. When he was woken, he was unable to communicate and was severely weak on the right side of his body. It was important that the SCIRT team started his rehabilitation as soon as possible. 

“Having SCIRT, an on-site team, allows for immediate intervention with patients, and we know from research that starting rehab as soon as medically appropriate leads to better outcomes and reduced length of admission. 

“We offer a complete bespoke service, and with Carter being so young, we took a very playful approach to his rehab. Despite the extent of Carter’s stroke, he has made a remarkable recovery which is testament to his resilience and the support he has received”. 

Initially Carter’s cognitive skills were very limited. He could not communicate or walk and struggled with his right sided weakness, particularly his right arm. After six weeks of intense daily rehabilitation, he was making progress with his speech, had partial use of his right hand back and could take a few aided steps.  

Having astounded medics with the speed of his recovery, Carter is now back home, learning to take a few independent steps one day at a time and continuing his rehabilitation as an outpatient. 

Carter’s Dad, Lawrence, said: “I can't explain how we feel about the whole team at Southampton Children's Hospital. Carter is now back to the happy little boy he was, laughing and playing. He's still got a long way to go, but when I see that smile on his face, we couldn't ask for more than that." 

Andrea Whitney, consultant paediatric neurologist at SCH, described this type of stroke as ‘rare’ in a two-year-old, especially as Carter had no underlying cause. She added: “We were lucky that his parents spotted the signs fast, which enabled us to diagnose his condition and stabilise him as quickly as possible”.  

“We’re all thrilled with the speed in which Carter has recovered, this is attributed not only to the fast actions of his parents and their unwavering strength but also to our dedicated neuro team our excellent SCIRT service – something we are incredibly lucky to have at Southampton Children’s Hospital”.