Doctors dismissed 3 symptoms of stroke in young people as drugs, migraines
- About 10% of strokes occur in people under the age of 50, so young people are prone to wrong diagnoses.
- Insider shared the stories of two young stroke victims who doctors assumed had migraines.
- Another young stroke survivor said doctors were convinced she was on drugs or hungover.
When Hailey Beiber suffered a stroke in March at the age of 25, it forced fans and followers to confront an underappreciated fact: strokes can and do happen to young people.
However, doctors (and patients) can overlook the signs and attribute them to more common culprits like stress, drug or alcohol useor migraines. As a result, some patients may never fully recover. “Minutes are important in terms of saving brain tissue and brain function,” Lloyd-Jones said.
Insider published the stories of three young people whose symptoms were not taken seriously at least in part, they believe, because of their age. Here’s how they paid the price and instead what they wished for happened.
The 20-year-old was sent home from the emergency room with a diagnosis of migraine even though he could not walk
Xavier Ortiz was playing basketball when several of his friends, who are nurses, noticed his eye wandering. He was rushed to the emergency room, where he complained of classic signs of a stroke such as a severe headache, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, dizziness and numbness on one side of his body, his girlfriend Natasha Sanchez said the Insider.
But the clinician told them it was a migraine, gave Ortiz an IV and pain medication and sent him on his way, Sanchez said. She and Ortiz’s mom, who then joined them, had to carry him to the car.
The next day, Ortiz started having seizures in bed. An ambulance took him to the hospital, where clinicians suspected that he had taken drugs. It wasn’t until the next day that another neurologist looked at Ortiz brain scansthat the family had learned that he had suffered a severe stroke and had only a 3% chance of survival.
Ortiz, who lives in New Jersey and graduated from a technical college shortly before the stroke, survived, although he was unable to speak, walk or take care of himself a year after the stroke, said his stepmother, Jackie Ortiz.
She wonders what could have happened if her husband had taken Xavier Ortiz to the emergency room that first night. It is in his nature to oppose authority figures such as doctors and, research suggests doctors are less likely to burn a man than a young person or woman.
“Maybe things would have been different for us,” Jackie Ortiz said.
Doctors were sure that the drugs had caused the 27-year-old woman’s symptoms
Doctors encouraged Brittany Scheier to confess. “They kept asking me: ‘Did you do drugs? It’s OK [if you did],” a Texas-based attorney said the Insider.
But Scheier, who was 27 at the time, had nothing to reveal, except that she had celebrated her birthday at the wineries the day before. Then she woke up in the middle of the night with severe nausea and ran to the bathroom to throw up.
“All of a sudden I realized I couldn’t move the right side of my body. I tried to stand up, I couldn’t. I tried to reach for things, I couldn’t,” Scheier said. Her vision narrowed to a pinprick and she screamed for her roommates, who carried her limp body to a car and rushed her to the emergency room.
Clinicians ordered a CT scan five hours after her arrival. Scheier had a stroke. “It was shocking,” she said, “I thought strokes were just something that happened to people my grandparents’ age.”
Scheier recovered with months of medication and various outpatient therapies. She had to learn to drive again and could not be left alone because her depth perception and coordination made it difficult to walk.
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, cardiologist from New York, told Insider Scheier’s experience shows how critical it is for women – who are more likely to have a stroke and die from it but men — to stand up for themselves.
“So many times I hear, ‘I listened to the doctor. Maybe they’re right,'” she said. But “no one lives in our bodies. We know when we are not well.”
The 26-year-old felt unnoticed in the emergency room because of her age
Jenna Goldman learned how to deal with her occasional but debilitating eye migraines: “Take me home, put a cloth over my head, sit in a dark room for a few hours and just relax,” Goldman, then 26, said the Insider.
But one day in 2020, those tools didn’t work. Goldman, a marketing and events specialist in New York, developed numbness on the left side of her body, could not move or speak, and began to sweat – and vomit – profusely.
“I felt like something just took over my body and threw me to the ground. I had no idea what was going on,” she said.
But at the hospital, overwhelmed by COVID patients, Goldman was not a priority. “The lights are so bright, I’m in so much pain, I haven’t had any water, I’m just a big mess, and nobody’s treating me,” she said. – They just think I’m a girl with a migraine.
The next day, Goldman underwent an MRI, which revealed she was suffering from multiple strokes on her brain.
Goldman spent three months in physical therapy and, more than two years later, still had trouble concentrating, tired and hot, and lacked sensation on her left side.
Doctors eventually linked her stroke to her birth control pills, which increase the risk of stroke — especially among people with ocular migraines.
“If my gynecologist had ever told me that migraines and birth control don’t go together,” she said, “then I would have stopped taking anything estrogen-related.”