At 16, John Cothran of Cartersville was working out at the gym with his friend when he felt a shooting pain in his head. His friend drove him to WellStar Town Lake Urgent Care where it was recognized he was having a stroke and an ambulance took him immediately to WellStar Kennestone Hospital, a comprehensive stroke center.
At the point of getting in the ambulance, it had been about 25 minutes since the onset of symptoms. EMS immediately contacted the Emergency Department while en route with information on John’s conditions (decreased consciousness, changes in the pupils, vomiting) so the neurosurgeon could meet John upon arrival – when treating a stroke, time is of the essence.
Here is a video about his story:
Dr. Ahmad Khaldi, medical director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at WellStar Kennestone Hospital assessed the situation quickly and uncovered the cause; John had been born with an arteriovenous malformation (AVM). AVMs are weak blood vessels that can burst at any moment.
John’s emergency surgery required a portion of his skull to be removed to reduce the intense pressure on his brain so it could begin to heal. His skull was placed in the lining of his abdomen for preservation.
Several months later, he underwent a second surgery to remove the AVM and his skull was reattached.
Now 18, John is fully recovered (it took about a year of healing) and finishing up his first year at Kennesaw State University. He plays pickup basketball and works out regularly. He has an interest in becoming a healthcare professional because of his experience.
Here is a Q&A with Dr. Andrew K. Johnson, Endovascular Neurosurgeon at WellStar Kennestone Hospital
Is there a way to prevent stroke in children?
If a child has symptoms that resemble a stroke, it is important to have them evaluated by a physician as soon as possible. A transient ischemic attack (TIA) will often cause temporary symptoms that resolve entirely. A TIA may indicate that someone is at risk for a larger stroke in the future.
What are the warning signs of a stroke in children?
The signs of stroke in a child are the same as an adult. Use the FAST acronym, F – facial droop, A – arm weakness, S – speech difficulty, T – time: race to the hospital!
Why is it important to act fast when you suspect your child may be having a stroke?
When someone is having a stroke, time is (of the essence). The longer the brain is without oxygen-rich blood, the more neurons, or brain cells, will die.
Is there anything else about strokes in children you would like to share?
Modern treatment of acute strokes including endovascular therapy to reopen blood vessels can halt the progression of a stroke and even reverse it entirely. Children have a remarkable ability to recover from brain injuries including stroke. With rapid diagnosis, appropriate acute care and rehabilitation, many children who have a stroke go on to live amazing lives.