BY VERNA NOEL JONES tendons, connecting bones and some long-term movement or think-
disorder for children—
striking just two or
three kids per 100,000
annually. In fact, many
people don’t think
strokes occur in young people at all.
Most teens with stroke have
tears in the arteries of their necks,
either spontaneously or through an
injury, such as getting hit in the
neck during sports, explains Dr.
John K. Lynch, program director
in the office of minority health
research at the National Institute
of Neurological Disorders and
Stroke in Bethesda, Maryland.
The second most common cause
of teen stroke is a disorder that
affects the tissues (ligaments and
Stroke Smar t
joints) such as Marfan syndrome,
often seen in very tall, thin people.
Their tissues and blood vessels are
often stretched and can break more
easily than people of average
height. “Such people are at greater
risk of developing tears in their
arteries,” says Lynch.
A third cause is a heart disorder
where clots formed in the heart
travel to the brain. Blood disorders,
clumps of tangled blood vessels
(arterio-venous malformations or
AVMs) and some infectious diseases are other causes. “In AfricanAmerican children, sickle cell disease is the most common cause of
stroke,” says Lynch.
Some three to 10 percent of
teens with stroke will die. Among
the survivors, the majority have
ing problems. Nevertheless, recovery
potential is much better for teens, says
Lynch, because of the flexibility in
their still-developing brains. The following teens shared their stories with
Stroke Smart to help us all realize that
strokes occur at all ages and from
many different causes.
RIGHT: Amy (center) with
sisters, Brittany & Caitlin
Two days after his 14th birthday
last October, Patrick Campbell was
at school when his speech and
writing suddenly worsened. Then,
he passed out.
He was rushed to the hospital
where he was found to have had a
bleeding stroke caused by an AVM
(arterio-venous malformation). This
tangle of thin-walled blood vessels
can break easily, causing a hemorrhagic stroke that poured blood
into his brain. After surgery to
repair his AVM, Patrick was left
with a facial droop, a paralyzed
right side, and Broca’s aphasia,
affecting his speech.
Before that fateful day, Patrick,
who lives with his family in
Washington, D.C., was active in
jazz, hip-hop, and break dancing
and was a talented artist at the Duke
Ellington School of Arts. Once
confined to his bed, he’s now walking with help, but cannot use his
right hand. So, he’s found a way to
draw with his left hand. His focus
was to get back to school as soon as
possible, and he returned to the
ninth grade last fall. He continues
to go to therapy three times a week
to improve his speech, and is driven
to regain some use of his right hand.
“To have Patrick recover to the
extent he has is promising,” says his
father, Francis, who is working to
establish a support group for people
with AVMs.
Amy Groene, a triplet, loved playing soccer, baseball and swimming.
The honor student was heading out
for a football game on September 3,
2004, when she felt an excruciating
pain in her head and numbness in
her right leg. At Cincinnati’s
Children’s Hospital, it was determined that the 14 year old had an
AVM rupture, filling her brain
with blood and causing numerous
The doctors didn’t expect her to
survive. She did, but it wasn’t an
easy road. Amy was in the hospital
for four months, barely able to do
more than blink her eyes and a give
Once confined to his bed,
Patrick’s now walking with help,
but cannot use his right hand.
So, he’s found a way to
draw with his left hand.
LEFT: Patrick Campbell, a student at the
Duke Ellington School of Arts.
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The Daily News Journal, Murphreesboro, TN
ABOVE: Neal Carroll with his mother, Marcia.
a “thumbs up.” By November, she
started coming around and now
has only right leg weakness and
some difficulty speaking. She’s
back in the pool, swimming the
breaststroke and is a freshman in
high school. On May 26, Amy was
thrilled to throw the first pitch at a
Cincinnati Reds baseball game.
she’s had a personality change and
being in the crowd didn’t bother her
at all. Now we talk about how she’s
come so far and she’s very positive,
even talking about going to college.”
Neal Carroll, 14, wanted desperately
to play basketball for his Central
Though Neal can’t return to contact sports until
he gets a new heart, physicians say they expect
him to return to normal once that happens.
“She was so excited,” says her
mother, Susan. “We were concerned that she might not do it
because she was kind of shy. But
Stroke Smar t
Middle School basketball team. And
the Murfreesboro, Tennessee, team
no doubt wanted Carroll, too, who
already stood six-feet, five-inches tall.
Most of these teens had family
members who recognized they
were having strokes and
responded quickly. Regardless
of age, anyone with sudden
numbness on one side of the
body, sudden problems seeing,
standing/walking, or speaking,
or anyone complaining of a
severe and sudden headache
should get medical attention
immediately. To learn more
about stroke symptoms, contact the National Stroke
Association at 1-800-STROKES
(1-800-787-5637) or
But Neal never played the 2004
season because of a stroke on
December 26, 2004. Neal’s mother
Marcia, was in another room
when Neal called out for her from
the den in a slurred voice. She
rushed in and immediately recognized that he was having a stroke.
Neal was able to walk initially, but
by the time he got to the ER, he
had become paralyzed on his left
side. With quick treatment, he
was stabilized and soon made “a
remarkable recovery” from his
stroke symptoms—no paralysis, no
speech problems.
Unfortunately, the doctors
determined the stroke was caused
by a blood clot released from his
damaged heart. Now, Neal is second on the waiting list for a heart
transplant. Though he can’t return
to contact sports until he gets a
new heart, physicians say they
expect him to return to normal
once that happens.
Meanwhile, Neal says he’s
“being patient and learning to
hang in there. My advice to others
is don’t rush anything. Be happy.”
In an odd twist of fate, just hours
before turning 18, Joe Kay was
trampled by a crowd of joyful students rushing the basketball court
at Tucson High School to celebrate a team victory after his winning dunk.
In the crush, a major artery in
Joe’s neck was torn, leading to a
massive stroke and partial paralysis to his right side on February 6,
2004. The horrific incident
dashed the six-foot, six-inch
Arizona athlete’s plans to play
varsity volleyball for Stanford
University. But Joe, a math whiz
and National Merit Scholar, is
still going to Stanford this fall
where he’s looking at a possible
major in political science, neurobiology, or biology.
He made it happen through
sheer grit, a fighting character,
and dogged determination to
regain his ability to walk with
barely a limp, ride a recumbent
bicycle, speak more clearly, and
get some work out of his right
hand. “I’ve recovered pretty
well,” says Joe, “though my hand
is not at the speed of a normal
right hand.”
Before the accident, Joe says he
didn’t really think about the future.
The stroke redirected his thinking,
though. “Now I know I’m not
invincible and I live every moment
and second as if it’s my last.”
y and his mother.
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