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2012 ISSUE 1

Stroke Does Not Age Discriminate

One teen’s mission: To educate young people about the signs of stroke.

Looking back, Darrien Bush says all the signs of stroke were there.

“And if we knew about FAST earlier, we could’ve identified it,” the 17-year-old adds. “However, we didn’t really think about a stroke in a teenager.”

Bush had two strokes at age 15. In March 2010 he went from feeling nauseous and having chest pains to having two strokes within a matter of 10 days. No one realized the episodes were strokes until the effects surfaced later.

Today, Bush is working to implement stroke awareness at his school and establish the first pediatric stroke walk in his hometown of Jersey City, NJ. He focuses on promoting FAST (see the sidebar to the right) and making sure others are aware of stroke signs.

“When people think about someone having a stroke, they immediately think about elderly people or drug users, but that’s simply not just the case,” Bush says. “By showing others that stroke does not discriminate against age or gender, I can help people can have a better understanding of it.”

After being bedridden for almost 10 days, he made two trips to the hospital with his mom. He complained of lightheadedness, chest pains and difficulty breathing; doctors told them everything would be fine and sent him home with nausea pills.

Late that night, Bush took a nausea pill and hopped in the shower.

“When I got out, everything felt different,” he recalls. “My speech was slurred, I got really dizzy and my sight would start going when I stood up.” Bush never imagined it was a stroke. The next day, he went to the hospital and a series of tests revealed he’d had two strokes due to left ventricular non-compaction cardiomyopathy, a rare form of heart disease that causes abnormal blood flow and blood clots around the heart that could lead to possible strokes.

Over the following months, the teen recovered at an impressive rate and, as he became more comfortable with what had happened, he started teaching friends and family about how a stroke feels and what happens when it occurs.

“During the time I was recovering and accepting things myself, helping others helped me accelerate the process,” Bush says.

He’s now looking forward to college and a possible career in psychology. “I’m not sure exactly what field I would like to go into yet, but I’m sure I want to help other people adapt to their surroundings,” he says. “Considering that my life changed around so unexpectedly with almost no one to empathize with, I feel like I would like to be that person that wasn’t really there for me.”

Use FAST to remember the warning signs of stroke

    • Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
    • Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
    • Speech: Ask the person to repeat a phrase. Is their speech slurred?
    • Time: Note the time when symptoms first appear. If given within three hours of the first symptom, there is an FDA-approved clot-buster medication that may reduce long-term disability.

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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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