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Striking Out Stroke

November 01, 2018

At 17 years old, Manuel has always been healthy, active, and athletic. But one morning while brushing his teeth, he noticed that he was growing increasingly unable to move his left arm and hand. The whole left side of his body started going numb, and then his left leg gave out and he collapsed onto the floor.

Manuel is part of a foreign exchange program; he lives in Portugal and came to study in the United States for his senior year of high school. That morning, his host brother heard the fall, helped Manuel up, and Manuel continued to try to brush his teeth.

When his guardian, Jim, heard what was going on, noticing that Manuel’s speech was slurred and his whole left side limp, they immediately went to the emergency room at Soin Medical Center, where it was determined that Manuel was having a stroke.

Digging deeper

At Soin Medical Center, Manuel was stabilized under the care of Scott Balonier, DO. Dr. Balonier and the care team searched for clots in Manuel’s upper body that could have traveled to the brain. At first, they found nothing.

Before the stroke, Manuel had not known that he had a hole in his heart called a patent foramen ovale (PFO), which means the hole in the wall between the left and right atria of his heart never completely closed up after he was born. For most people, a PFO doesn’t cause serious health problems. Manuel had recently sprained his ankle playing soccer; doctors theorize that a clot from the sprained ankle traveled upward, went through the hole in his heart, and passed up to the brain, causing the stroke.

“My physicians took good care of me,” says Manuel. “If they didn’t take the time to do all the extra research in my case, they wouldn’t have caught the hole in my heart.”

Act FAST

Up until that morning, Manuel had been extremely active, playing football, running track, and competing on the wrestling team. Manuel says he didn’t know much about what to do in a stroke emergency before his own. “Many people probably don’t know what to do,” he says. “We’ve learned a lot about stroke through this experience.”

What he did know, however, was to Act FAST—an acronym for stroke symptoms. FAST stands for:

  • Face – Is one side of the face drooping?
  • Arms – When raising both arms, does one drift downward?
  • Speech – Is speech slurred or garbled?
  • Time – Act quickly; if you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.

A full recovery

Manuel had surgery at Kettering Medical Center to repair the PFO a few weeks before his high school graduation. At Manuel’s request, he stayed conscious enough to watch what was going on during the surgery, as he is fascinated by medicine and has a goal of becoming a neurologist. He even uses the word “fun” to describe the experience. His recovery time was minimal, and Manuel is back to his normal, active lifestyle, with the exception of holding off on contact sports for a few more months.

His story was highlighted at this year’s Strike Out Stroke event, where he threw out the first pitch at a Dayton Dragons game. The event is an annual opportunity to share stroke awareness and prevention information with the community.

ACT FAST

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a stroke, call 911 immediately. Click here to find your nearest emergency center.