The Cause of Brain Damage
What Happened to My Child? Why?

What is the cause of brain damage in my child? How did it happen? When? Why? What could we have done differently?

These are important questions. But are they the most important question?

Our Story

When our son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and microcephaly at 4 months old, we were crushed. Our first reaction was of course shock. This was followed by deep sadness at the loss of our perfect child and wondering what we did wrong. Then came the quest to know why he suffered brain damage. We spent a lot of time chasing down specialists for answers.... What happened to our son? What was the cause of his brain damage?

Through the CAT scan and the MRI / MRA tests that were conducted, we learned that our son had multiple strokes in utero. His brain had developed. During the third trimester of pregnancy, he suffered many strokes causing severe brain damage. Why?

We spent months searching for the answer to this question. No, there was no alcohol, smoking, drug use, etc. during pregnancy. His homocysteine levels were elevated. Specialists were called in. Many tests were taken. But, finally, homocystinuria was ruled out.

After six months of testing and evaluations, the interest level of all the doctors simply faded away as they couldn't find any answers. Perhaps doses of 2 to 3 times the recommended amount of folic acid during pregnancy might have helped, they said. But, in the end, why did our son suffer the multiple strokes? Only God knows.

It took us a full year before we were able to just accept that our son had a brain injury and that we would never really know the cause of his strokes. We wasted precious time, energy, and resources during this time. The cause of brain damage remains unknown, but the results of the stroke were clear. And our son needed our help to somehow get better.

Lessons Learned

There are many causes for brain injury in children and babies. Some of these causes are stroke, tumor, trauma, and genetic disorders.

Each diagnosis that you may have received from your doctor, whether it is down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, microencephaly, or hydrocephalus may also have specific causes related to it. Don't confuse the diagnosis with the cause of brain damage.

A child may have cerebral palsy, but that is not a cause of the brain injury. Click here to learn more about causes of cerebral palsy.

Often, various causes (stroke, tumor, trauma, etc) in the end result in a lack of blood supply or oxygen to the brain at some point. When the brain does not receive enough oxygen, brain cells are damaged. The cells atrophy and die. Because of the prenatal strokes, our son's brain lost the blood supply and oxygen that it required, and his brain atrophied.

Bottom Line

Finding out the cause of brain damage to your special needs child is of course important. This is especially true if the cause is genetic and therefore may impact other children or even their children.

But sometimes it is just not possible to know the cause of brain damage.

Don't get bogged down with this search. Instead, focus on the real issue at hand:

Given that your child is brain injured, how can you help him or her to get better?

Treat the brain injury, not the cause of the brain injury.

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