Johnny Schwan suffered a stroke before he was even born.
He had a stroke in utero, which affects one in 4,000 babies before their first birthday, according to the Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association.
How they found out
When Johnny was three months old the Schwans noticed something was wrong.
Johnny continuously kept one hand clenched into a fist. That worried his mother Gina, who watched him use the other hand normally. Gina continued to watch him but things did not improve.
She took him to the doctor and that’s when the doctors delivered the news: Johnny's clenched fist was the result of a stroke he suffered in utero.
“I didn’t want him to be held back by it,” Gina said.
That bit of news was devastating for the Scwans but it wouldn’t be the last.
The neurologists also discovered a large lesion in Johnny’s brain a few days later. After being devastated and upset by the news of the stroke, and how that could possibly hinder Johnny, this news paled in comparison.
After visiting four neurosurgeons, no one could tell the Schwans what exactly was wrong. But soon that wouldn’t matter.
Miraculously, a year later the lesion was gone, vanished and those same neurosurgeons still had no explanation.
“I cannot tell you the joy that brought us,” Gina said.
That miracle left the Schwans forever grateful and now they want to pay that good fortune forward.
How the Schwans plan to help children like Johnny
On Sept. 24, one day before Johnny's second birthday, the family is holding the Glen Ellyn P.S.S. We Love You! 5K Run/Walk. The event will raise awareness and funds for children like Johnny who have suffered a stroke at a young age.
“We want to help kids that don’t have great therapists,” explained Gina.
Johnny has been one of the lucky ones. He’s able to see a range of therapists on a constant basis, to help improve the function of his arm. At least once a week, Johnny visits his occupational therapist Sara Oravecz.
At first Oravecz said that Johnny barely had the use of his arm, but since it was caught early she has seen an improvement through repeated practice of climbing ladders, going down slides and engaging in all sorts of play.
"Johnny is great at adapting his body to what he needs. He figures out ways to do things and is really accepting of challenges and tries really hard,” Oravecz said. “I expect really great things for Johnny."
But this isn’t always the case; not every child is able to get help right away like Johnny.
The Schwans are hoping the 5K event will become an annual race that will attract people to downtown Glen Ellyn, and will raise money and awareness for a cause that’s close to their hearts.
For more information on the race and pediatric strokes, visit this website.