‘Paying It Forward’ to Help Tomorrow’s Children

Solomon James Rodan Pediatric Stroke Research Fund

No one can predict when the unthinkable will happen, when the happiest day of your life becomes your most terrifying. Two days after Camie Rodan gave birth to her first son Solomon “Solly” James Rodan, the doctors at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., informed her and her husband that Solly was having seizures. The newborn was medevaced to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, where the confused and frightened new parents learned that Solly had suffered a stroke.

But under the care of the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) at Georgetown, Solly improved. “We found comfort in our neonatologist and NICU nurses because they picked up issues and addressed them immediately,” shares Solly’s mother. “I have never seen stronger, smarter, or more compassionate people than the ones who helped us during Solly’s first month. They were both caregivers and advocates.”

Overwhelmed with questions, the new mom started reading up on what happened to her son. After joining a couple of support groups, she accepted a board position at the International Alliance for Pediatric Stroke.

Around this time, she decided she wanted to “pay it forward” by supporting research in the field. She learned of Dr. Elissa Newport’s Pediatric Stroke Research Project, a constituent part of Georgetown University Medical Center’s Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery. “I felt an immediate connection with Dr. Newport. In fact, she was the first one to walk me through the MRI photos of Solly’s brain, the ones I had been too scared to review,” adds Rodan. “When I heard about the goals of the center, I told my family and network of friends.” She arranged with her parents, Jim and Pam Griffith, for their family foundation to make a $300,000 gift to create the Solomon James Rodan Pediatric Stroke Research Fund.

The fund will support Dr. Newport and her team of researchers as they study the long-term outcomes of perinatal and pediatric stroke. “When someone suffers a stroke, parts of the brain are permanently impaired,” explains Dr. Newport. “But in babies and young children, the healthy parts of the brain often can take over functions that may be lost. This reorganization is called brain plasticity, and there’s an early developmental window during which it occurs the most strikingly. By focusing on that process, we hope that, in the long term, we can learn to control or even stimulate it when needed. In addition to our medical research, we provide information for parents, many of whom are lacking information. Few people realize that infants and young children can have a stroke or know what the outcomes will be.”

“There’s physical therapy, occupational therapy, feeding therapy, developmental therapy, and more. Every day his brain is recovering,” says Jim Griffith as his now 18-month-old grandson coos and giggles in the background. “The process is like magic.”