From the swimming pool to the hospital, one boy’s story of recovery post-stroke


    Seven-year-old Bryan Sadowski spent the first three months of this year in the hospital fighting for his life, then fighting to regain the use of his left arm and leg.

    It all started at an evening swim lesson when he suddenly realized he couldn’t lift his arm as his instructor was asking him to do. His arm was paralyzed, he couldn’t move much at all. He remembers being hauled out of the pool and sitting on the lifeguard’s lap waiting for help. Soon after, he was sound asleep. He woke up two days later in a hospital bed.

    “I didn’t hear anything or see anything. I didn’t know what was happening,” “Bryan said. “The ambulance took me to the hospital where Emmy [his sister] was born, Abington, and later to CHOP by helicopter and my mommy asked my dad to go by helicopter because otherwise he could get lost driving and then she would have to worry about daddy and me.”

    Bryan spent two weeks in the ICU and was diagnosed as having had an intra-cranial hemorrhage and suffered a stroke as a result of an arteriovenous malformation rupture in his brain. He lost use of his left arm and leg and had two brain surgeries while at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

    “I had an MRI, which is a brain X-ray and I got a stuffed animal, his name is Dylan,” he said. “I wasn’t talking and I had IVs in my arm and they gave me a nose tube so I could eat.” He remembers he couldn’t eat by mouth but had a piece of bacon from his mother’s sandwich.

    “It felt like I had a piece of bacon in my nose,” he said with a laugh.

    His most vivid memories are about the staples and stiches they took from his head and the birthday party with his family.

    When he looks back on his time at the hospital, he mostly tells stories of moving from one floor to another as his stay in the hospital moved from surgery and emergency care to all sorts of therapy sessions: speech, physical, occupational, art and child life therapy.

    Bryan has been back at school for a few months and goes to therapy five days a week. Tony Sadowski, his father, says he’s walking well but his leg still needs work for flexibility and stamina. His arm needs even more work.  He still has limited movement and very little control of his left hand.

    “Neuropsych testing shows he’s in good shape, but still has plenty of work ahead to get back to 100 percent. His progress in this short time is pretty amazing to watch.”

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