At first-glance, Jackson Brogan, a Grade 1 student at Octagon Elementary school in Paradise looks just like every other elementary school child.
But his story is a lot more complicated than that of most Grade 1 students.
Jackson suffered a stroke when he was three weeks old. The condition was noticed by his grandfather, who just happens to be a general practitioner.
“Three weeks after he was born (Oct. 31, 2012), my dad (Dr. John Janes), who is a general practioner in Mount Pearl noticed Jackson had a left-sided gaze,’’ his mother Lisa Brogan said.
“He had developed a nystagmus, a shake in his eye that (Dad) hadn’t seen before. Dad was concerned and started to monitor it,’’ she added.
It didn’t go away, so Jackson was taken to the Janeway Children’s Hospital in St. John’s for an examination to determine the issue. After the exam they were initially told it could be immature development, but the doctor ordered an MRI for Jan. 18 to see exactly what they were looking at.
“We were called back in on Jan. 19. We knew it was something. The doctor told us Jackson had suffered a stroke,’’ she said.
“They found he had a narrowing in his cerebral artery on the left side of his brain. We went to see a neurologist the following Monday. I was a first-time mother and was scared. I was concerned to see what the extent of brain damage he may have had. The only thing I knew he could do for sure was to swallow as he was breastfeeding.”
She said it was tough for her husband (Ryan) and her to fathom, after all, therapy for a 14-week-old is unheard of. But off to physio they went.
It was during this time doctors and therapists found Jackson’s right arm and leg were affected. Brogan said they did a host of activities with him to ensure he was aware the arm and leg were there and to entice him to do whatever was necessary to ensure he got as much rehabilitation as possible.
Jackson had more issues develop when he was 10 months old. He had a seizure his mother called infantile spasms.
“His head dropped forward, and his arms would go up. At first, I thought he was doing something silly, but it happened a large number of times each day,’’ she said.
“When it continued, I called Dad and we took him to the Janeway.”
At 10 months old, Jackson was prescribed prednisone, the same dose that an adult would take. Brogan said they were afraid of side-effects from this. In fact, there were some that included his growth being delayed by about six weeks and he had an incessant hunger.
At present, Jackson has no use of his right hand and limited use of his right arm, but he is working to improve that. He’s also finding ways to work around it.
He enjoys swimming and despite a few struggles, works diligently to put on his own coat every day.
To help with his right leg, he has been given Botox injections to relax the muscles.
“He has overcome a lot of odds and he certainly never gives up. He is phenomenal,” Brogan said. It’s easy to see how proud she is of her son.
“He is a normal kid. He will battle the same as all kids his age. He doesn’t want to fall behind, and he gets good marks. He is not the brightest kid in his class, but he is not remedial either. He doesn’t require any resources,’’ she added; she stays in close contact with Jackson’s teachers.
In addition, he has been getting treatments — serial casting to stretch the leg. This process lasts about three weeks and is done in the summer, so he is able to go to school and do all the things he enjoys for the longest amount of time possible throughout the year.
“Early intervention in this was so key. He was blessed to be born into the family he was,’’ she said.
“He started in physio and it snowballed from there. As Jackson aged, he could do more and more,’’ she said. “We even enrolled him in music therapy at four … and saw as many specialists the Janeway could send us to.”
Unlike other children who have lingering side-effects, Jackson has been seizure-free up to now. There is only a slight chance his seizures could reoccur. Once he turns seven, the chances are significantly decreased.
“Early intervention in this was so key. He was blessed to be born into the family he was." — Lisa Brogan
Brogan said her family circumstances have led to a vast improvement in Jackson, who was fortunate to have been born into the family he was.
Having a grandfather who was a doctor who first noticed the issue, someone who could pull a few strings and suggest a path or two to help in Jackson’s rehabilitation were huge.
Brogan said she is lucky her husband and family are as supportive as they are.
“That made a huge difference through all of this.”