Strokes increasing among young people
Updated: 05/30/2012 11:56 AM
By: Claudine Chalfant
Having a stroke is life altering. But imagine suffering a stroke at the age of 39 with a spouse and young child who depend on you. Now your family's future is left hanging in the balance.
"I would have never thought that this could happen to him," said Tanisha Anderson about her husband.
Last May, a medical emergency changed the News 14 Carolina producer's life. Her husband, Eric, a then 39 year old broadcast engineer for NASCAR suffered a bilateral stroke. There were no warning signs.
"It was leading up to Memorial Day weekend, we were making weekend plans and when I looked at him before he went to bed., we shared a joke, and shared a smile," said Tanisha. "When i went to work the next day, I kissed him goodbye like I normally do, he turned over and everything seemed fine."
Dr. Jodi Dodds is Eric's neurologist and one of the doctors at Presbyterian Hospital who spent the first three days post-stroke fighting to save his life.
"Those first few days can really look very challenging and very daunting and the question is how hard should you push, how aggressive should you be, what is this person's life going to be like a year out from the stroke," she said.
Eric couldn't speak, eat, or move the left side of his body for months. Now it's one year later and Eric is focused on recovery.
"I hope that things will get better," he said.
Auto body shop owner Gary Moya Mendez's story is a little different. Gary, 51, suffered a stroke at age 13 because of a genetic disorder called GRA, or glucocorticoid-remediable aldosteronism.
"I was riding my bike and all of a sudden something just hit me like a bad headache just phasing in and out," he said.
A blood vessel burst on the right side of Gary's brain and caused him to lose a lot of his sight and movement on the left side of his body. He learned to walk again and regained some movement in his left hand. His eldest daughter inherited the GRA gene and takes every precaution against stroke.
Gary and Eric are similar in that they both suffered strokes at a young age.
The Centers for Disease Control reports nearly one quarter of strokes happened in people younger than 65. It's becoming more common because of the increasing number of people who smoke, have diabetes or are obese. However, when it comes to rehabilitation, the age of a stroke patient may play a significant role in their recovery.
"Young patients tend to have healthier brains and so they're better able to compensate for these deficits that they have and they're able to rehabilitate effectively," said Dodds.
Thanks to therapy, Eric can now speak and eat and is working on walking again.
"Two years I see myself playing with our son and living the dream," he said.
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