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Family struggles after daughter's stroke

September 18, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

NEWVILLE, Pa. - Cammy Slavin will never forget Aug. 17, 1998.

That was the day her usually energetic 8-year-old daughter Tiffany suffered a massive stroke.

Slavin and her family are former residents of St. Thomas, Pa., who moved to nearby Newville less than a year ago.

Slavin said that the night before her stroke, Tiffany had a headache and was vomiting.

"At 2 a.m. I was finally able to get her to sleep," Slavin said. I didn't know what was wrong with her. I figured maybe she had the flu. At 8 a.m. I called the doctor's and made an appointment for later in the morning."

When Slavin woke her daughter to take her to the doctor, she found Tiffany paralyzed and unable to talk. She rushed her to the Chambersburg (Pa.) Hospital emergency room. Tiffany was then flown to Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center.

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"I hadn't had any trouble with her before," Slavin said. "She was healthy."

Tiffany came home last week. Slavin said she can say "yes" and "no" and understand what others say. She has some movement in her right leg, but her right arm is paralyzed.

A'rare situation'

Dr. Jeanette Ramer, director of pediatric rehabilitation at Hershey Medical Center, said Tiffany suffered a major stroke.

"It's a very rare situation," Ramer said. "There was a tear within the lining of the left cerebral artery that cut off blood flow to the left hemisphere of her brain."

Ramer said although the tear will heal itself, Tiffany's brain "took a real hit" when bloodflow was cut off.

Ramer said such strokes in children, although rare, usually are the result of some sort of trauma, such as a fall. "Most often what we see is a fall where the head snaps forward and back. Of course, children fall all the time."

Ramer said doctors don't know why some children are more susceptible to such tears, which hardly ever recur, than others.

In Tiffany's case, the cause of the stroke is even more mysterious, Ramer said. "In her case there wasn't any trauma. It seems to have been spontaneous."

Slavin said that before Tiffany had her stroke, she loved to ride her bike, rollerblade, swim and hike. The family has horses, and she'd ride every weekend.

Today, Tiffany struggles to learn the simplest of words.

Before releasing her for good, Hershey doctors allowed Tiffany to go home for a one-day visit about two weeks ago. It was her first time home since the stroke.

"The first thing she did was grab her kitten Patches," Slavin said. Patches is 2 months old.

Tiffany can hold Patches all she wants, when she isn't at Chambersburg Hospital for therapy or at Hershey for checkups.

Slavin, who slept at Tiffany's side while she was at Hershey, said she's glad to have her little girl home, but lives with uncertainty about her future. "It's scary. I'll always be scared now," she said.

Slavin and husband Raymond find themselves playing a waiting game. While they bide time, they try to help their 7-year-old son Leevon adjust to what's happened.

"He's clammed up on me," Slavin said.

The Slavins also worry about how they will pay the huge medical bill they face.

Slavin is on leave from her job at Beistle Co. in Shippensburg, Pa. She said the people there have been wonderful, calling her weekly to check on Tiffany's condition.

But she said she can't get insurance coverage on her family until she's worked there for a year, which will be in December.

Raymond is a mechanic at an auto-wrecking firm. He has no insurance.

Slavin said it cost $13,000 a day to keep Tiffany at Hershey during her three-week stay.

To help out, relatives and friends in Franklin County, Pa., have opened a trust account at F&M Trust bank in Waynesboro, Pa., and put posters and donation cans in stores throughout the area.

So far, more than $4,000 has been donated for Tiffany's medical bills, the family said.

Anyone who wants to donate to Tiffany's fund can do so by writing: Tiffany Slavin Trust Fund, in care of F&M Trust, 200 E. Main St., Waynesboro, Pa. 17268.

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