Skiing next challenge for 10-year-old stroke survivor from Auckland's North Shore

Ten-year-old Sofia Kovacs, who had a stroke as a baby, is looking forward to going skiing at Cardrona with the Young ...
DENISE PIPER/FAIRFAX NZ

Ten-year-old Sofia Kovacs, who had a stroke as a baby, is looking forward to going skiing at Cardrona with the Young Stroke Thrivers Foundation, supported by her parents Suskia and Tony.

Suskia Kovacs knew her baby had suffered from a stroke when she saw one side of her body was drooping and she couldn't sit up.

Her daughter Sofia, then aged nine months, had been sick from the chickenpox but was particularly unwell that day, said Suskia, a Beach Haven resident on Auckland's North Shore.

"My grandmother had had a stroke and I remember her describing what had happened: the drooping down one side of the mouth and that total weakness down one side," Suskia said.

10-year-old Sofia Kovacs gets a taste of skiing at Snowplanet through the Young Stroke Thrivers Foundation.
Dave Bradley

10-year-old Sofia Kovacs gets a taste of skiing at Snowplanet through the Young Stroke Thrivers Foundation.

"I called the nurse and I said ' I think she's had a stroke' and she said 'children don't have strokes'." But children do have strokes, at a rate of 11 per 100,000 children each year.

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Sofia was rushed to North Shore Hospital, then on to Starship Hospital where a brain scan found she had a cerebral infarction - a blockage in the brain.

It was unclear whether the chickenpox virus, varicella, had contributed but Suskia said the quick diagnosis and treatment helped.

"I've met other people that have had children that have had strokes and they've been left for three days without knowing what had happened and it's impacted them quite adversely."

Sofia's stroke was 10 years ago now and she has had plenty of physiotherapy, occupational therapy and treatment to help her right side recover after it was paralysed in the stroke.

One of the hardest things was getting her to wear a leg splint in the hot summer months, Suskia said.

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The youngster had to adapt by becoming left-handed but she was helped along the way by her three older siblings.

Sofia had to have neurological check-ups every six months, her father Tony said.  

"We were very fortunate … It didn't affect her cognitive abilities."

The family found it was a big help meeting other families whose children had suffered from strokes, through the Young Stroke Thrivers Foundation.

The organisation was set up for children who have had strokes in 2015 by West Harbour resident Maria Fredatovich, who suffered a stroke at 13.  

Through the foundation, Sofia was able to meet other children who had had strokes, plus take part in activities such as rock-climbing, and skiing at Snowplanet.

Now, thanks to the organisation and Foundation North trust, Sofia will be challenging herself to a week of skiing at Cardrona Alpine Resort.

Sofia and another young stroke sufferer from Whangarei were drawn for the event, which will run with Adaptive Snow Sports NZ, to ensure the youngsters can make the most of their time on the snow.

While the trip to Otago was a new and exciting adventure, Sofia said she was most looking forward to the skiing.

 - Stuff

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