March 18, 2010 — -- Months ago, 7-year-old Hope Espinoza smiled ear to ear as she took the stage on the kid's beauty pageant show "Toddlers in Tiaras."
Today she's still smiling, but instead of performing before a huge television audience, only hospital staff and her family are watching as she relearns how to walk.
Last month Hope had a stroke that claimed the use of one arm, one leg and impaired her speech.
"I just broke down in tears because you don't see a 7-year-old having a stroke," Hope's mother, Michelle Espinoza, told "Good Morning America." "You don't see healthy little girls walking around, just falling into their mom's arms for no reason."
But strokes do affect children. About one child in every 8,300 under 18 years old suffers a stroke, according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Pediatric Stroke Program. Strokes also strike one in every 4,000 newborns.
The statistics did not soften the blow for Michelle, who was watching Hope play when the stroke hit.
"I asked her if she was thirsty, and she said, 'Yeah,' so I told her to go to the water fountain to get something to drink. Then she came back and her little mouth had already dropped. She was slurring to me and was just kind of wobbly. And then, of course, she fell," Michelle said. "I was like, 'Lord, please don't take Hope,' you know? She's my only little girl."
Hope was airlifted to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, Ark.
Hope: 'I'm Going to Strut My Stuff'
"She had a stroke, a type of stroke that's unusual even among strokes in that the vessel itself was injured," said Dr. William Walters of the hospital's pediatric neurology department. "She was probably born with some sort of abnormality that just reached it's breaking point and broke. The blood vessel bled into the wall of the blood vessel and that's what caused it to block itself off."
Hope is undergoing intense rehabilitation to regain the use of her left arm and leg, in addition to speech therapy.
Back home her four brothers miss her. At her school her desk remains empty, and her classmates can't wait for her return.
It could be a long time before Hope hits the pageant circuit again.
"I thank God that she's here and the pageants were fun while they lasted, but she's alive and she's happy and so that's what matters," Michelle said.
Hope, however, doesn't sound like she's ready to quit and will be heading home on Friday.
"Well the doctors are going to fix this arm and I'm going to be able to walk," she said. "[I'll] go home and I'm going to strut my stuff."
Warning Signs of a Pediatric Stroke:
Because strokes are rare in children, there are often delays in diagnosis and treatment.
Children also have a more difficult time describing their symptoms, which can be subtle. If you're concerned that your child may have had a stroke, seek medical attention immediately.