One cause of in utero stroke is blood clotting problems in the mother. These may not even develop until she becomes pregnant. That was the case with Jennifer Rutherford, whose son Elijah was diagnosed with in utero stroke at 20 months of age. “Though I felt there was something wrong, people told me I was being overly worried,” she said. “’Every baby develops at a different rate,’ they said. Had I known what I was looking at, I would have insisted more urgently.”
Her protein S deficiency (a clotting disorder), which was the cause of Elijah’s presumed perinatal ischemic stroke, was not diagnosed until her second pregnancy, when Elijah was five years old.
Jennifer says Elijah is constantly educating anyone who will listen about pediatric stroke. Jennifer and Elijah came up with a way to spread awareness while helping children with disabilities feel more comfortable with themselves. Using one of his teddy bears, mother and son dressed it in a t-shirt that read, “Pediatric Stroke Awareness.” They named it Pat Bearowitz and made up a story about him based on
|Elijah raises awareness of pediatric stroke.|
They bought Pat a journal and created a passport for him and sent him to Connecticut on his first visit.
As they boxed Pat up, Elijah said, “Mom, I am really going to miss Pat. But I know he needs to go and visit other children like me.” His t-shirt was poorly made, so the mom at his first stop made him a new one that said, “I’m Pat, I survived a stroke!”
|Pat Bearowitz helps Addy after seizure.|
At an orthotic appointment for Elijah, Jennifer told the orthotist about Pat and his journey. The orthotist loved the idea so much that he donated an AFO.
“We sent it to the second family where Pat was already headed so that they could put it on Pat’s leg,” Jennifer said.
They kept blog posts of Pat’s adventures, and each post brought in more people wishing to get a visit from the now famous Pat Bearowitz. “We even started getting requests from other countries and decided we needed a second bear,” Jennifer said. Thus Pat’s little sister Patricia was born. Her first visit was to England. Pat and Patricia have since been joined by Patrick to help meet all the requests.
The Bearowitz threesome has been traveling the world for two years spreading awareness. One bear helped a little girl feel less embarrassed about her AFO, enough so that she wore a skirt for the first time. There are now over 130 families waiting for a visit from these three bears. Jennifer and Elijah have since expanded to include other diagnosis such as autism, congenital heart defects and chromosome disorders. Each bear has a story based on a real child so the children they visit can more easily relate to them. You can track the bears on their mission to spread awareness at or sign up for a visit at www.travelingawarenessbears.org (opens in new window).
For more information and stories of pediatric stroke, visit our Stroke In Children section.