Jordan: Stroke at Age 15, Canada
Sunday January 12, 2014 was like any other Sunday. My son Jordan had to ref a hockey game in the morning and afterwards he was going to play in his own Midget house league game. I was supposed to go to the airport to pick up my older son but his flight was delayed so I ended up going to the game instead. I wasn’t dressed for the ice rink so I watched from the warm room, which was very unusual for me because I liked being at ice level to watch the games.
Halfway through the game, I looked down and noticed the team crowding around the bench. I thought someone had been hurt and then I saw my husband, a team coach, waving me to come down. I instantly got sick to my stomach. Jordan was a very good hockey player, healthy and at 6’2” and had never been hurt mostly because he was bigger and faster than most of his teammates. I can’t remember getting from the warm room to the ice, but my heart stopped when I got there and the kids were helping lay him flat on the ice. My mind went blank. My husband’s first thought was that Jordan was having a heart attack! A parent had noticed Jordan collapsing and called 911 right away. While we were kneeling by his side, I was trying to get him to stay awake and focus on me, but he said his vision was blurry and he was seeing double, and his speech was slurred when he tried to speak. My husband said he was tripping up in his skates during the game and he just laughed it off saying his skates had to be sharpened. He was also fumbling the puck and decided to change his stick thinking that was the issue. But when Jordan skated to the bench, he got a terribly sharp pain in his right temple and collapsed. The firefighters were the first to arrive and they quickly checked his heart and assured us it was strong. The EMT showed up right behind them and whisked Jordan off very quickly to the hospital just 5 minutes away.
He was barely conscious at the Janeway Children’s Hospital so they sedated and intubated him so they could run some tests. At first they thought it might be a severe migraine, and then they thought perhaps Bacterial Meningitis. It wasn’t until a CAT scan was done that they discovered a dissection or tear in his right carotid artery on the base of his skull. When this happens, your body’s natural defense is to send a blood clot to repair internal damage but the clotting only made the artery tear more until one broke off and traveled to his brain causing a stroke.
The term “blood clot” is something we could process, but when we heard the word “stroke” our whole world fell apart.
This first thing I remember after collapsing was waking up in a hospital with a large team of doctors standing around me. I had been airlifted from Newfoundland to Toronto Sick Kids Hospital where they have a team of doctors for Pediatric Stroke. They performed an angiogram to confirm a dissection and started a blood thinner treatment. I was paralyzed on the left side of my body entirely from head to toe. I also lost vision in my left eye. After three weeks I was stable enough to go home and then I began an intense rehabilitation program, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week for 11 months.
The day before I had my stroke, I was reffing a game and I cracked my neck like I always did. I went home with a pain in my neck and my mom gave me ibuprofen and I slept for a long time. The next day I was feeling better so I played again and that’s the day I collapsed. The Neurologists believe that my bad habit of manipulating (cracking/over stretching) my neck could have caused the tear in my artery. Looking back now I had ALL the signs of STROKE. Facial droop, Arm weakness, Slurred speech, Time to call 911 as outlined in Heart and Stroke’s F.A.S.T. campaign worldwide, but because of my age I was not diagnosed right away. I was a perfectly healthy 15-year-old boy and I had a stroke.
Two years later and I am now in my senior year and have returned to high school full-time with Physio and Occupational therapy after school 4 days a week. I have regained my vision and the use of my left side with the exception of the fine motor skills in my left hand, but I am improving every day. I know how very lucky I am that there was no cognitive, visual or hearing loss, however it still isn’t easy to be a teenager in a society where any physical impairments are not understood. I don’t like the word “disability” because that means I am not able to perform a task. I can do anything I put my mind to, it just might be in a different way than everyone else… for now.
I think the most important thing for people to know is STROKE can happen to ANYONE at ANY age! You can be young and completely healthy and still have a stroke, but the younger you are, the better your chances are of recovery if you do the work…. And I don’t mind doing the work. This month, I will be returning to the ice to play hockey for the first time since January 12, 2014 in a Heart and Stroke Fundraiser and I will also graduate on time with my class June 2016.