When Esmae Hodgetts was suddenly hit with a pounding headache, the 20-year-old thought nothing of it.
Nor did she think anything sinister was to blame for the slight twinge she felt in her shoulder and neck the week before.
So it was clear that Esmae, who prided herself on being fit and healthy, was disturbed when she discovered the true cause of her pain – a stroke that has turned the dental assistant’s life upside down.
Although considered a condition unique to the older generation, younger people – even hundreds of children each year – are also affected.
Esmae Hodgetts, 20, a dental assistant from Chesterfield, was disturbed to discover that her neck pain and migraines were actually a stroke
Esmae, a dental assistant from Chesterfield, wants other twenty-somethings to realize that they are not immune to stroke just because of their age.
“It can happen to young people,” she told MailOnline.
“They mostly say don’t worry about it until you’re 40 and always say watch out for numbness and a droopy face, but I wasn’t having any of that.
“There was no reason for that to happen, it just did it randomly.
“I was just unlucky.”
Esmae remembers how she suddenly got a ‘thunderclap headache’ at the end of 2022, on New Year’s Eve itself.
It caused her to collapse at home and she had difficulty walking due to dizziness.
Esmae told MailOnline, “It was so intense it felt like a stabbing pain in my head and it radiated down to my neck.”
But Esmae, who went to the emergency room the next day, was completely unaware of the warning signs that had plagued her the days before she collapsed: intense pain in her neck and shoulders.
Although neck pain is usually harmless, it can indicate a tear in one of the arteries that supply the brain.
It can also cause shoulder pain and mimic a migraine, according to one article published in the BMJ.
Known medically as cervical artery dissection, this is one of the leading causes of stroke under the age of 50.
A tear in the lining of the carotid or vertebral arteries — the pair that feed the brain — causes blood to leak between the layers of the artery wall.
This forms a clot, explains Harvard Medical School.
“As a result, the clot can completely block or break off blood flow through the artery and lodge in an artery in the brain,” the health advice page says.
“If either one happens, the result is a stroke.”
Other – just as common – telltale signs of an impending stroke often go under the radar. These include sudden numbness on one side of the body, sudden dizziness, and difficulty swallowing
Cervical artery dissection is usually caused by high impact injuries such as a car accident. But it can, in exceptionally rare circumstances, also be caused by sneezing, coughing and vomiting.
However, Esmae has no idea what her fault was.
Doctors didn’t realize she had suffered a stroke for almost two days due to the lack of obvious symptoms. Medics herself were baffled as her coordination and speech were completely unaffected.
Even the stroke team was surprised when the MRI results came back revealing she was having a stroke, Esmae said.
She had no serious long-term side effects after the stroke — her vision, coordination, and speech were unaffected.
Esmae only recently stopped taking the blood thinners she was prescribed after her diagnosis, but she still suffers from dizziness and a lingering fear that it could happen again.
“I can’t do what I used to do, I can’t go out and drink with my friends, I can’t eat unhealthy food and I just had to make some changes,” she said.
Although she used to eat healthy, go to the gym and drink only occasionally, she has now decided to become a teetotaler and completely overhaul her diet.
“I eat much healthier, and I don’t drink at all because I don’t even want to risk feeling dizzy and it’s given me some anxiety because now I’m afraid to do anything, there was no reason for it to happen,” said she.
What Are the Symptoms and Causes of a Stroke?
A stroke is a life-threatening medical condition that occurs when 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. Stroke patients often have their face drooping to one side, difficulty lifting both arms and slurred speech, while time is of the essence as immediate treatment of a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or minor stroke the risk of a much more deadly major stroke
What Causes a Stroke?
There are two main causes of strokes:
- Ischemic – where the blood supply is stopped because of a blood clot, accounting for 85 percent of all cases.
- Hemorrhagic – where a weakened blood vessel supplying the brain bursts.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, irregular heartbeat and diabetes can increase the risk of stroke.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms of a stroke can be remembered with the word FAST:
- Sight – the face may have fallen on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or the mouth or eye may have fallen.
- arms – the person with a suspected stroke may not be able to lift and hold both arms due to weakness or numbness in 1 arm.
- Speech – their speech may be slurred or distorted, or the person may not speak at all despite appearing to be awake; they may also have trouble understanding what you are saying to them.
- Time – it’s time to call 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 blurred vision
- Being sick or feeling sick dizziness
- Difficulty understanding what others are saying
- Problems with balance and coordination
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- A sudden and very severe headache that results in a blinding pain the likes of which has never been experienced before
- Loss of consciousness