I’m too young for a stroke!

I’m too young for a stroke!

Caitlyn’s story

Caitlyn was 15 when her mother, Deb, found her lying on her living room floor.

Deb understood the seriousness of the situation and called 9-1-1. The ambulance took Caitlyn to Ministry Good Samaritan Health Center where stroke was confirmed. Caitlyn was then airlifted by Ministry Spirit Medical Transportation to Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital’s Stroke Center in Marshfield. During the helicopter ride she met transport nurse Rob Bohl, RN, MSN, APNP, Marshfield Clinic neurology nurse on staff at Ministry Saint Joseph’s.

“Caitlyn had all the typical signs of stroke,” said Bohl. “She had one-sided weakness, slurred speech, vision problems and lack of coordination.”

Caitlyn suffered an ischemic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel that brings oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked by a blood clot. When blood fails to reach the brain’s cells, they die within minutes. These cells are not replaced, which can make the debilitating effects of stroke permanent.

At Ministry Saint Joseph’s, Caitlyn underwent a series of CT Scans to see what was occurring inside her brain. Her CT profusion images showed where the stroke was located and also allowed her health care providers to determine the best course of treatment.

“If we treat stroke early, we can often limit or prevent some of its disabling affects,” said Bohl. “If we see the patient within three hours, we may administer a clot-busting drug.

“Though we saw Caitlyn’s in time, her images showed the drug would not be appropriate,” said Bohl. “Time is always a factor when treating stroke – early assessment means better treatment. Minutes do matter!”

Caitlyn did not have any of the typical risk factors for stroke so her stroke was totally unexpected. Deb’s fast action not only saved Caitlyn’s life, but also her ability to function. Today, Caitlyn plays the clarinet and participates in the Wind Ensemble and the marching band at her school.

Stroke … isn’t something just grandma and grandpa need to worry about Seventy to 80 percent of all strokes are ischemic strokes, like the one that Caitlyn suffered. Most of these strokes occur in older people, but according to a report by the American Stroke Association that trend is changing.

A recent CDC study compared stroke hospitalizations in 41 states by age in 1994 and 1995 to stroke hospitalizations in 2006 and 2007. The results showed a 51 percent increase in stroke in men between the ages of 15 to 34 years. Strokes for women in this age group also rose 17 percent.

Many wonder if stroke occurring at younger ages can be attributed the rise in obesity, high blood pressure and the increase in prevalence of diabetes in our country. Though this seems like a logical conclusion, more study needs to take place to confirm the results.

Strokes, or “brain attacks,” occur when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. Within minutes, brain cells in the blocked area begin to die from lack of oxygen and other nutrients. By attacking the control center of the body, stokes can impair movement, thought processes, speech function, emotional reaction and sensation.

There are two types of strokes: hemorrhagic stroke and ischemic stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain breaks and bleeds into the brain. Twenty percent of all strokes are hemorrhagic.

Ischemic strokes are caused by blood clots blocking blood vessels or arteries in the brain. Transient ischemic attacks (TIA) or mini strokes are caused by a temporary disturbance of blood supply to an area of the brain, which results in a sudden, brief decrease in brain function. TIAs may not cause permanent damage, but do signal the risk of a serious stroke.

A person’s impairment after a stroke depends on the location of the stroke within the brain. Strokes occurring in the cerebrum may result in a loss of movement, speech, sensation, thinking, memory, sexual function and regulation of emotions. If the stroke was located in the cerebellum, the person’s balance and coordination may be affected; it also may cause dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting. Brain stem stroke affects vital functions such as heartbeat, blood pressure, breathing and sensory functions; this type of stroke often results in death.

You can minimize your risk.

Up to 80% of all strokes are preventable;
Risk Factors for Stroke YOU can control

  • Blood Pressure higher than 140/90 mm Hg
  • Smoking
  • High Blood Cholesterol – LDL cholesterol higher than 100 mg/dL); HDL cholesterol (less than 40 mg/dL); High triglyceride levels
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Obesity 
  • Excessive Alcohol Use – more than one drink a day for women: two for men
  • Illegal Drug Use
  • Stress Response 

Time Lost is Brain Lost.

It is critical that people suffering stroke seek care immediately. The biggest reason most people don’t get the established therapy for stroke is because they wait too long. Stroke is sometimes a painless process so there does not seem to be a reason to rush to treatment – people tend to wait to see if the symptoms will get better on their own.

But if they wait too long, intervention may not be possible. In some cases, a fast-acting intravenous drug called tPA, tissue plasminogen activator, can reverse some of the effects of an ischemic stroke by dissolving blood clots that restrict the blood flow to the brain. But, tPA must be administered within three hours of the onset of stroke to be most effective.

Other "clot-buster" medications called thrombolytic agents also may be administered to help reduce the damage to brain cells caused by stroke.

Act FAST and Call 9-1-1- Immediately

Does the person’s face look uneven?

Is one of the person’s arms hanging down? This may show weakness on one side of the body.

Is the person’s speech slurred? Are he or she able to carry on a conversation?

Call 911 NOW! Time lost is brain lost.


Every 45 seconds, someone suffers a stroke. Call 9-1-1- Immediately IF any of the following occur:

  1. Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  2. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  3. Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  4. Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  5. Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

If you suspect a stroke, don’t wait! Minutes Count!

Remember, not all people will have all signs of stroke. If there is a sign, don’t ignore it, even if the symptom goes away. Take note of the time, you will need this at the hospital.

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