Sneeze could have killed three-year-old Maiya

Maiya Sutherland with mum and dad, Samantha and David. Picture Ian Rutherford
Maiya Sutherland with mum and dad, Samantha and David. Picture Ian Rutherford
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WHEN three-year-old Maiya Sutherland suffered a stroke, she was rushed to hospital fighting for her life.

Her parents David and Samantha, both 23, feared the worst as they sat at her bedside in the Sick Kids.

Medics left the couple stunned when they explained that the potentially life-threatening condition could have been triggered by something as simple as a sneeze.

David, a plant operator for demolition company Dem-Master, said: “The doctors are 99 per cent sure that the stroke was caused by Maiya jerking her neck.

“It could have happened at nursery or in the house, or she could have done it in the car. We couldn’t think of one certain day when she had a bad fall. The doctor or one of the nurses in the ward said she could have sneezed and jerked her neck – I was shocked by that. There’s a small chance that could be the reason.”

He added: “When she jerked her neck, it was like a hairline split in the artery on the left hand side of her neck and when the body was trying to clot to heal the hairline split, a bit of the clot broke off, and that’s what blocked the blood vessel feeding part of the brain, which got starved of blood and caused the stroke.”

Maiya was happily playing in the living room carpet of her grandmother’s home in Livingston one Saturday morning in September when the shocking drama unfolded.

The normally healthy, bubbly youngster was quickly taken unwell and had to be rushed to hospital after suddenly becoming paralysed down her right side. An MRI scan confirmed that she was one of just 200 to 300 children in the UK every year to suffer one of the potentially lethal episodes.

Maiya’s grandmother Tina, 42, was looking after her while David and mum Samantha, also 23, were at work. David added: “Maiya was sitting on the carpet and couldn’t stand up properly – she kept falling over. Her mouth seemed lazy at one side. She went to go to the kitchen but couldn’t stand up, so she started rolling towards the kitchen.

“My mum phoned the doctors and they wanted her to take Maiya to St John’s – they did a CT scan and found a dark spot on her brain, and she was rushed straight to the Sick Kids in an ambulance.”

The Bathgate couple dashed to the hospital to be by Maiya’s side. David added: “We went straight up to St John’s. Maiya was limp and didn’t seem herself.

“She just sat on the bed and cuddled in; usually Maiya is wild and running about daft – she’s a typical three-year-old. That was what gave me a shock – seeing her not being herself.

“It was in the back of my head when I saw the signs that it could be a stroke, but I didn’t want to go down that road. I was hoping it wasn’t anything serious. It was a shock when I found out. When you’re actually told, it floors you. The doctors don’t know if it could happen again, they will be keeping an eye on her.”

He added: “Maiya’s brain shut her body down so that it could start healing itself and that’s when we really got frightened. But the doctor explained that was perfectly normal and a good sign.”

Maiya’s heart rate and blood pressure were monitored, and within 24 hours she was showing signs of improvement.

She received physiotherapy to get her back on her feet, and speech therapy, and returned home around a week and a half after being rushed to hospital.

Maiya’s speedy recovery would not have been possible without the care and dedication of the “amazing” staff at the Sick Kids hospital, for whom David and Samantha – a sales assistant at Aldi in Bathgate – were full of praise.

“I wouldn’t fault the Sick Kids one bit, what they did was amazing,” said David. “We’re over the moon to see Maiya back to her old self.”

The Evening News has joined forces with the Sick Kids Friends Foundation (SKFF) to mark its 20th anniversary this year, and we will be working with the charity to celebrate its achievements and help make this year its best yet.

Meanwhile, Maiya still attends the Sick Kids for regular scans and check-ups and takes aspirin every night before bed to thin her blood.

David said: “We are really not bothered about giving her one tablet a night before bed – at least she’s there to give the tablet to.”