As Max Davenport crouched down on the floor in the middle of his seventh birthday party, his mum thought he was just playing and ‘being silly’.
But the youngster began ‘twitching,’ suddenly lost the ability to move, his left arm was ‘like a rag doll,’ he had ‘glazed eyes’ and couldn’t speak.
Terrifyingly, as Max’s mouth drooped ‘like in the adverts,’ mum Michelle Davenport knew her little boy was having a stroke.
Just minutes before, Max had been running around with his friends.
But out of nowhere, he was quietly staring at his parents who had no idea why he’d had a stroke or that he’d have to embark on a six month recovery journey and learn to walk again.
Max’s stroke has also left him unable to use his left hand or foot.
Michelle, 37, has shared her brave son’s story in order to raise awareness of the fact that strokes can happen to young people.
The pharmaceutical technician from Blackwater, Hampshire, told Mirror.co.uk: “I was completely gobsmacked, there was nothing wrong with him before.
“All of a sudden my husband said to me ‘what’s he doing?’
“He was sitting on the floor and looked like he was twitching.
“I thought he was being silly.
“My husband went over to him to pick him up.
“I looked at Max and he was completely blank, staring through me.
“He was wide eyed but there was nothing there – he was completely lifeless but staring at me. “
She added: “I thought he was having a fit, I knew something wasn’t right.
“I said ‘something is happening, I can’t get him to answer me.’ We were all trying to talk to him.
“He was making a funny noise from his throat, whimpering like he was trying to talk.
“I couldn’t get his left arm to move.
“It was like you see in an advert – his mouth drooped.
“I was petrified, it was the most frightening thing ever.”
Max, whose birthday is on September 5, was having a joint party with a couple of friends when he had a stroke on 25 September, 2016.
Michelle, who along with Gary works at the Frimley Park Hospital, says Max was very healthy and they had never had any health worries with him in the past.
In the car on the way to the party, “he was fine and full of beans”.
The kids were taking part in a game called The Raid in the woods, dressed in camouflage outfits and shooting each other with toy guns which had foam bullets.
Max completed the first round, running around with the other children, and his mum says “he was absolutely fine”.
But when they stopped for lunch he told his mum he had a headache.
“He was really quiet,” Michelle remembers.
“Max has ADHD and is normally hyperactive.
“I gave him a cup of water and thought he was hot from running around.”
But Max took a sudden decline and that’s when she and her material management assistant husband Gary, 48, noticed him on the floor ‘twitching’.
Staff at the activity centre lay him down and phoned an ambulance.
When paramedics arrived, Michelle says they got him to open his mouth but “his tongue was to one side.”
“They lifted his left arm and dropped it and it was like a rag doll,” she said.
“I said to them ‘he has had a stroke hasn’t he’.
“They scooped him up and took him to hospital.
“We had no idea that could happen, it was the most surreal experience ever.”
Michelle continued: “When it happened it was in the middle of everyone.
“The other parents present whisked the rest of the children to the other side of the camp to have lunch so they couldn’t see.
“The symptoms were so stereotypical of a stroke, after I’d initially thought he was having a seizure.
“His eyes were funny, they were glazed, like it was not Max at all.”
Max was taken to the Royal Surrey in Guilford where he had a CT scan.
“In hospital the nurse explained everything that was happening, I was just in complete shock saying ‘OK, OK,'” Michelle said.
“I rung my dad and sister and said ‘come to hospital now’ as I thought the absolute worst and wanted everyone to be there.
“I panicked that something awful was going to happen.
“He was quite stable but still couldn’t move.”
Max was then blue lighted to the Southampton Children’s Hospital where he had an MRI scan which confirmed he’d suffered a ischaemic stroke.
This happens when a blood clot, or other blockage, cuts off the blood supply to your brain, the Stroke Association says.
“I remember crying and crying and couldn’t believe it had happened,” Michelle said.
Max stayed in hospital for six months in total – three months on a ward followed by another three months at a rehabilitation centre on the site.
He underwent intensive physiotherapy to get him back on his feet as he’d instantly lost the ability to walk.
Max also had psychological treatment to “help him get back to himself”.
His mum stayed with him at a Ronald McDonald House – free accommodation offered by the charity for parents with children in hospital.
Michelle’s best friend and sisters had to help with school drop offs and pick ups for her daughter Sophie, now seven, who was four at the time.
Speaking about Max’s recovery, Michelle, who also has stepchildren Rhianna, 19, and Harry, 18, told: “The drooping and dribbling lasted a couple of weeks and then slowly started to improve.
“He started to get his speech back quite quickly. It was slurry but he was able to talk to us.
“We thought we’d just stay there [in hospital] for a week, a couple of weeks, but we stayed there at Southampton for six months in total.
“Physio started with getting him to sit upright with support to start with, then very slowly built on that to standing and then on to walking with support until eventually he could walk independently with a splint and just a wheelchair for long distances due to fatigue.
“Occupational therapists worked on teaching him ways to dress, clean, use his arm as much as possible in everyday tasks to try and grow new pathways in his brain to remember that side again.
“It took him about eight weeks to be able to be up and walking with help, with support.
“He just gradually got stronger each day, and he’s very able now with walking.”
Now 10, Max walks “really well” but he can’t move his left foot, has no movement in his left hand and wrist and limited movement in his left elbow and shoulder.
Max has a splint on his arm and leg, a piece of medical equipment used to keep an injured body part from moving and to protect it from any further damage.
His mum says he never moans and can’t remember exactly how he was before “which in a way is a blessing”.
But for her and Gary “it’s very heartbreaking”.
Telling a story that touched her, Michelle said: “Max said to me the other day ‘if you had scrap metal what would you do with it? If I did, I would make a time machine and go back seven years and enjoy moving my hands as much as I could’.
“Hearing that and seeing him not able to do certain things is really upsetting.
“But I think of how lucky he is and how he has recovered – it’s a miracle how you see him now compared to before.
“He is a very resilient and amazing little boy.”
Since the stroke, Max has to take more care while playing.
He loves football but his mum says he can’t tackle anyone.
The youngster also used to go on skateboard ramps on his scooter but he doesn’t have the balance to be able to do so now.
Michelle says Max can’t ride a bike anymore and has struggled with friendships since the stroke.
“His emotions are quite up and down – if he’s sad, he’s very sad, or he’s really really happy. Everything is in extremes,” Michelle said.
The mother said her own emotions have also been up and down.
She said she’s felt confused, sad, angry, questioning why this happened to their family.
“We were all over the place but it was also heartwarming because we had so many people looking after us – family, friends.
“Max became a celebrity in hospital and we became so close to people.”
Michelle said her message would be not to ignore any symptoms.
She added: “People tend to think that strokes affect old people and I’d like them to know that it can happen to anyone, even children.
“It can happen without any prior warning and it is so important that people recognise the signs to be able to seek help as soon as possible,” said Michelle.
“I feel grateful Max is still here and is doing well.”
The Stroke Association and Yateley and District Lions Club gave the family a grant towards a specially-adapted trike for Max.
Find out more about how the Stroke Association is helping people rebuilding lives at stroke.org.uk