How a sneeze could have caused 3-year-old Maiya’s stroke


A THREE-year-old girl was almost killed by a stroke which doctors believe was caused by her sneezing.

Maiya Sutherland was rushed to hospital after the violent jerking of her neck caused by a sneeze is thought to have opened a hairline split in an artery.

The tot from Bathgate, West Lothian, was rushed to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh after she became paralysed down one side while playing at her grandmother’s home.


Maiya with her parents David and Samantha.


An MRI scan confirmed she had suffered a stroke and her parents feared the worst as they kept a vigil at her bedside.

But brave Maiya pulled through in less than two weeks and is now back at home following the terrifying incident in September.

Medics told David and Samantha, both 23, a simple sneeze could have caused the calamity.

Plant operator for demolition company DemMaster David said: “The doctors are 99% sure that the stroke was caused by Maiya jerking her neck.

“It could have happened at the nursery or in the house, or she could have done it in the car.

“We couldn’t think of one certain day when she had a bad fall.

“The doctor or one of the nurses in the ward said she could have sneezed and jerked her neck – I was shocked by that.”



He continued: “When she jerked her neck, it was like a hair-line split in the artery on the left hand side of her neck and when the body was trying to clot to heal the hairline split.

“A bit of the clot broke off, and that’s what blocked the blood vessel feeding part of the brain, which got starved of blood and caused the stroke.”

Maiya was happily playing in her grandmother’s living room in Livingston, West Lothian, when she suddenly became paralysed down her right-hand side.

Grandmother Tina, 42, was looking after Maiya while here parents were away at work.

David said: “Maiya was sitting on the carpet and couldn’t stand up properly – she kept falling over.

“Her mouth seemed lazy at one side. She went to go to the kitchen but couldn’t stand up, so she started rolling towards the kitchen.

“My mum phoned the doctors and they wanted to take Maiya to St John’s [hospital] – they did a CT scan and found a dark spot on her brain, and she was rushed straight to the Sick Kids in an ambulance.”



The couple  then rushed to hospital to see her. David said: “We went straight up to St John’s.

“Maiya was limp and didn’t seem herself.

“She just sat on the bed and cuddled in; usually Maiya is wild and running about daft – she’s a typical three-year-old.

“That was what gave me a shock – seeing her not being herself.

“It was in the back of my head when I saw the signs that it could be a stroke, but I didn’t want to go down that road.

“It was a shock when I found out. When you’re actually told, it floors you.

“The doctors don’t know if it could happen again, they will be keeping an eye on her.”

He said: “Maiya’s brain shut her body down so that it could start healing itself and that’s when we really got frightened.

“But the doctor explained that was perfectly normal and a good sign.”




Within 24 hours Maiya was showing signs of improvement, and had physiotherapy as well as speech therapy as she recovered.

She returned home around a week and a half after first falling ill.

David and Samantha heaped praise on staff at the Sick Kids’ hospital, saying their daughter’s recovery would not have been possible without their hard work.

Maiya still needs regular check-ups at the hospital and needs to take asprin every night to thin her blood.

David said: “We are really not bothered about giving her one tablet a night before bed – at least she’s there to give the tablet to.”

A former consultant paediatrician said, while rare, sneezes could cause strokes in young children.

She said: “Developing toddlers have weaker musculoskeletal systems and can, put simply, hurt themselves very easily.

“Something as simple as a violent sneeze could cause this but I would stress that the likelihood is very, very rare.

“In my time as a consultant working with children, I never experienced anything like this.

“In children, strokes are normally linked to or as a consequence of underlying medical conditions.”