Stroke in young people not recognized quickly enough: ‘a lot of time is lost’

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Some 40,000 people are affected by a stroke every year. In most cases it is a cerebral infarction. Of these, about 450 people are aged between 18 and 35. And 150 of the cases are under the age of 18. According to neurologists, it is extremely important that a stroke is recognized and treated as soon as possible.

Last year it went wrong with the then 17-year-old Jochem de Ruijter from Zeewolde. “A friend accidentally jumped on him while swimming”, his mother Christine tells Editie NL. “The hard blow to his neck ruptured his left carotid artery and partially stopped blood flow to his brain.”

The next day he went to school with what felt like muscle pain, but it went wrong there. “He became unwell, fell away and no longer had any feeling on the right side of his body. He was unresponsive to anything.”

“We felt that something was not right”

According to the ambulance staff, Jochem had had an acute stress attack. “We had to take him home, let him sleep and it would be better. We felt that something was wrong, but assumed that the paramedics would know,” says Christine.

When Jochem still did not respond to anything in the afternoon, his parents sent an ambulance again. “Then they immediately realized that it was wrong and Jochem was taken to hospital with screaming sirens.” The scans revealed that he had suffered a serious brain injury from a stroke.

Looking for another cause

According to Kees Braun, pediatric neurologist at UMC Utrecht, a stroke in children and young adults is in many cases not immediately recognized, because it is thought that this target group will not have strokes. “It is first thought of another cause where the signals resemble those of a stroke, such as migraine, the aftermath of a seizure or a psychological cause, such as an acute stress situation.”

Another problem is that the signals of stroke come and go in children. “They do not get their words right, but that may improve after a while. In the elderly, the signals play acutely and suddenly and are immediately visible.”

Jochem still cannot speak well

Therefore, few children with a stroke are treated within six hours. And that’s a big problem, because the sooner you get there, the more brain tissue can be saved.

Christine finds it terrible that so much time has been lost at Jochem. “He had an operation immediately, they wanted to save what could be saved and after that he spent three more weeks in the hospital.”

Jochem has been rehabilitated for months and has recovered well physically. “He can walk again and his fine motor skills are improving all the time. But his speech ability doesn’t always go well.”

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