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Gavin Sauter

Pediatric stroke patient happy, healthy

Lynn and Ryan Sauter recognized the buckling of their son's leg and the limpness in his arm as signs of a brain attack, but stroke seemed like an impossible explanation.

Gavin was only 20 months old.

"In our minds we kept thinking that a stroke happens to an adult and doesn't happen to a kid," said Lynn, an RN at Gundersen.

Dozens of tests later, including an MRI that required Gavin to be sedated and intubated, doctors confirmed that the toddler had suffered a stroke.

Ryan and Lynn describe the moment as one of "shock."

They're not alone.

Contrary to popular belief, about 15 percent of ischemic strokes occur in children, and stroke ranks among the top 10 causes of death in children. In just the last decade, there has been a 44 percent increase in the number of young people hospitalized due to stroke.

"You picture your whole life changing," Ryan says. "The doctors told us to be prepared to be in the hospital for the next couple of months."

Miraculously, Gavin had other plans.

While Gavin was eating breakfast on the family's fourth morning at Gundersen, Lynn exclaimed: "Look what he's doing."

Gavin Sauter

Gavin was picking up fruit with his previously limp arm.

By the end of the day he was shuffling down the hospital hallway with the help of a miniature walker. Within the week Gavin was able to return home, and just months later he was functioning as if he'd never experienced a stroke.

In the end, doctors pinpointed the cause of Gavin's stroke as a viral infection that had caused inflammation in his brain, impinging a blood vessel and cutting off his oxygen supply.

It is highly unlikely Gavin will suffer another stroke, his parents say.

"We continue to work through some of that fear," Ryan says, "but we trust Gavin's doctors."

Now, at 5 years old, Gavin says it's important to teach the signs and symptoms of pediatric stroke.


"So other people can get help right away," Gavin says.

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