In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

August 9, 2018

Stroke ‘Can Happen to Anyone’ — A Young Mom’s Story

By In the Loop

When Kevin Duane learned his wife, Alyssa, didn't show up for work, he knew something was wrong. What he didn't know was that someone so young and healthy could have a stroke.

When Kevin Duane learned his wife, Alyssa, hadn't shown up for work or dropped off their 11-month-old daughter at the babysitter's, he called her to check in. What he heard on the other end of the line terrified him. "I could hear some breathing and then I could hear some maybe moaning or grunts. That's when I knew something was very wrong," Kevin tells CBS-47 TV in Jacksonville, Florida. He called a neighbor and asked him to check on Alyssa, then he jumped in his car.

Kevin's mind went to some dark places during the drive home, but he was shocked when he learned what had happened. Alyssa had experienced a stroke and collapsed on the kitchen floor, where she lay for four hours — her daughter snuggled up by her side — before paramedics summoned by her husband broke down the door and took her to the hospital. There, doctors determined her stroke was caused by "a tear in an artery that blocked the blood supply to her brain," according to the Florida Times-Union.

Alyssa was 28, a marathon runner, and had no family history or risk factors. "I didn't ever think stroke was a possibility," Kevin tells the publication. "She lives a very healthy life, eats good foods, goes to the doctor regularly, exercises. She is, in my opinion, the picture of health. How does someone like that have a stroke?"

It's not as rare as you might think. According to CBS-47, "the American Medical Association [reports] stroke in young people is steadily rising." The Duanes hope that sharing Alyssa's story will raise awareness about that fact. "It can happen to anyone," Alyssa tells the Times-Union. Rabih Tawk, M.D., an endoscopic neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic, where Alyssa's doctor is based, agrees. "Looking healthy and living healthy does not mean that your genes are not predisposing you or there's no disease that's going on in your body," Dr. Tawk tells CBS-47.

For Alyssa, the only signs that foreshadowed trouble were a mild headache and nausea the day before she collapsed. She says she had "no clue" what was happening when she couldn't will her body to stand or her voice to speak.

A year later, Alyssa still attends therapy. "She has had to relearn how to talk and walk, take care of her child and do everything else she was able to do before," reports the Times-Union. She's returned to work, and she has set her sights on running again.

All that's possible due to the "'momentous' advancements in stroke care" over the past two decades, David Miller, M.D., director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Mayo Clinic in Florida, tells the Times-Union. "We've started to be able to … reverse the effects of a stroke," he tells the paper.

Those advances in stroke care continue. One promising option involves a partnership between Mayo Clinic and NLP Logix, who are working together to "speed up the diagnosis" of stroke by using artificial intelligence. (Sounds pretty smart to us.) You can learn more here.

Then get smart and leave a comment below before using the handy social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.



Tags: Comprehensive Stroke Center, Dr. David Miller, Dr. Rabih Tawk, Mayo Clinic in Florida, Patient Stories, stroke

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