EUR 25,000 is the amount TDK Electronics and TDK Europe have donated for Christmas this year in support of Stiftung Deutsche Schlaganfall-Hilfe, a German foundation to help prevent strokes and improve care for sufferers. The money will be used in the diagnosis and treatment of strokes in children at Germany's first Pediatric Stroke Center at the Dr. von Haunersche children's hospital run by the LMU University in Munich. The center was set up with the aid of the foundation and provides round-the-clock care to young patients.
A stroke is a sudden disruption to the flow of blood in the brain and can damage the central nervous system. In many cases, strokes result in moderate to serious disabilities. While half of all stroke patients are over the age of 75, younger people and children too can be affected.
Older people often suffer strokes due to high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, being overweight or a lack of exercise. Among children, however, the causes are "more complicated, more varied and more difficult to identify", says Dr. Lucia Gerstl, senior consultant at the LMU's Dr. von Haunersche children's hospital and senior physician at the Pediatric Stroke Center. Infections, vascular changes, coagulation disorders and/or congenital heart defects are often part of the issue.
"If there is something wrong with a child, hardly anyone considers a stroke as a possible cause," Gerstl says, describing the problem. "That's why children are often only brought to us after a lengthy delay." The consequences are severe: "Two thirds of children are left with irreparable damage, because parts of the brain were starved of blood for too long." Depending on where in the brain the stroke occurred, it can lead to developmental disorders involving paralysis, difficulties with writing and speech impediments. "A stroke can seriously impair the life of a three-year-old," Gerstl stresses. "It is a life-changing event that requires very special care." There are other issues too: "Families can break up under the burden, which is why we need systems to help the whole family!" In Germany, it is estimated that around 500 children a year suffer strokes – the same number as develop brain tumors.
To ensure that children are treated as quickly as possible and to provide support to their families, the Pediatric Stroke Center was established in 2014 as Germany's first pilot project at the LMU University's Dr. von Haunersche children's hospital der LMU in Munich. The doctors concentrate primarily on dissolving or removing the blood clot, seeking out the causes and providing rehabilitation, aftercare and support for both patients and their families. Where fine motor skills have been damaged, occupational therapists can help by adapting tools such as special pens, for example. Psychologists help patients become reintegrated in school life and also contact schools in cases where children will need special assistance at school after a stroke.