I survived a stroke at 20 – here's the subtle symptom that I ignored
I survived a stroke at 20 – here’s the subtle symptom that I ignored
- EXCL: The 20-year-old dental assistant didn’t have normal symptoms of a stroke
- She had pain in her neck and shoulder before collapsing and getting a headache
When Esmae Hodgetts was suddenly struck down by a banging headache, the 20-year-old thought nothing of it.
Nor did she consider anything sinister was to blame for the minor twinge felt in her shoulder and neck the week before.
So, obviously, Esmae, who prided herself on being fit and healthy, was disturbed to discover the true cause of her agony — a stroke which has turned the dental nurse’s life upside down.
Although considered an affliction unique to the older generation, younger people — even hundreds of children every year — are affected, too.
Esmae Hodgetts, 20, a dental nurse from Chesterfield, was disturbed to discover her neck twinge and migraine was actually a stroke
Esmae, a dental nurse from Chesterfield, wants other twenty-somethings to realise they are not immune from a stroke just because of their age.
‘It can happen to young people,’ she told MailOnline.
‘They mainly say not to worry about it until you are in your 40s and always say to look out for numbness and drooping in the face, but I had none of that.
‘There was no reason for that to happen it just randomly did it.
‘I was just unlucky.’
READ MORE: The six signs of a stroke that AREN’T the ones you’ve been told about
Stroke symptoms are commonly remembered with the four-letter acronym, FAST, which stands for face, arms, speech and time
Esmae recalled how she suddenly developed a ‘thunderclap headache’ at the end of 2022, on New Year’s Eve itself.
It caused her to collapse at home and left her struggling to walk due to vertigo.
Esmae told MailOnline: ‘It was so intense it felt like a stabbing pain in my head and it was radiating down my neck.’
Yet Esmae, who went to A&E the next day, was completely oblivious to the warning signs that had plagued her days before she collapsed — an intense pain in her neck and shoulders.
Although usually harmless, pain in the neck can signal a tear in one of the arteries supplying the brain.
It can also cause shoulder pain and mimic a migraine, according to an article published in the BMJ.
Known medically as a cervical artery dissection, this is one of the biggest causes of strokes in under-50s.
A tear in the lining of either the carotid or vertebral arteries — the pair which supply the brain — causes blood to leak between the layers of the artery wall.
This forms a clot, Harvard Medical School explains.
‘Consequentially, the clot might completely block blood flow through the artery or break off and lodge in an artery in the brain,’ its health advice page says.
‘If either happens, the result is a stroke.’
Other – just as common – tell-tale signs of a looming stroke, often fall under the radar. These include sudden numbness on one side of the body, sudden vertigo and difficulty swallowing
Cervical artery dissection is typically caused by high impact injuries, such as a car crashes. But it can, in exceptionally rare circumstances, also be triggered by sneezing, coughing and vomiting.
Esmae, however, has no idea what was to blame for hers.
Doctors didn’t realise she had a stroke for almost two days due her lack of obvious symptoms. Medics themselves were baffled because her coordination and speech were completely unaffected.
Even the stroke team were surprised when the MRI results came back to reveal she had a stroke, according to Esmae.
She was not left with any serious long-term side-effects following the stroke — her vision, coordination and speech had not been affected.
Esmae has only recently come off the blood thinners she was prescribed following her diagnosis, but she has still been left with vertigo and the lingering fear it could happen again.
‘I can’t really do what I used to do anymore, I can’t go out and drink with my friends anymore, I can’t eat unhealthy, and I have just had to make some changes,’ she said.
Although she previously ate healthily, went to the gym and only drank occasionally, she has now decided to go teetotal and overhaul her diet entirely.
‘I eat a lot healthier, and I don’t drink at all because I don’t even want to risk feeling dizzy and it has left me with some anxiety because now, I am scared to do anything, there was no reason for it to happen,’ she said.
What are the symptoms and causes of a stroke?
A stroke is life-threatening medical condition that happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.
Like all organs, the brain needs oxygen.
If this supply of oxygen is stopped or restricted, brain cells begin to die.
This can lead to brain injury or even death in some cases.
Stroke symptoms are commonly remembered under this four-letter acronym, FAST. Patients experiencing a stroke can often have their face drop on one side, struggle to lift both arms and have slurred speech, while time is essential, as immediate treatment for a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or minor stroke can substantially slash the risk of a much deadlier major stroke
What causes a stroke?
There are two main causes of strokes:
- Ischaemic – where the blood supply is stopped because of a blood clot, accounting for 85 per cent of all cases.
- Haemorrhagic – where a weakened blood vessel supplying the brain bursts.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, irregular heart beats and diabetes can raise your risk of a stroke.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered with the word FAST:
- Face – the face may have dropped on 1 side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have dropped.
- Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in 1 arm.
- Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake; they may also have problems understanding what you’re saying to them.
- Time – it’s time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.
Other signs and symptoms may include:
- Complete paralysis of one side of the body
- Sudden loss or blurring of vision
- Being or feeling sick dizziness
- Difficulty understanding what others are saying
- Problems with balance and co-ordination
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- A sudden and very severe headache resulting in a blinding pain unlike anything experienced before
- Loss of consciousness
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