Biden's stroke puts focus on young patients

May 12, 2010 3:07:27 PM PDT
About 10 to 15 per cent of strokes occur in those under the age of 50. There are more potential causes, however their prognosis for recovery is better than for older patients.

"A massive headache woke me up," Jason Feuerman remembers.

At time, he was 38 years old, and in Baltimore on a business trip when the first sign came.

He finished business, and took the train home.

When he got back, the stroke was in full attack.

Jason says, "At the parking lot at 30th street, my left arm was flailing, and I lost my balance, and I collapsed. But I still didn't know what was going on, so I got in my car and tried to drive."

He says that ended when he got to the cashier's booth, and his foot was out the door, dragging on the ground.

Jason says when he tried to talk, he realized what was going on.

Onlookers then called 911.

At the hospital, tests showed Jason had a hole between the chambers of his heart.

A blood clot likely formed there, and traveled to his brain, triggering the stroke.

Heart defects are a major cause of stroke among the young.

Heart arrhythmias, and diseases like sickle cell, lupus, and Lyme, also raise the risk.

So do oral contraceptives, illegal drugs like cocaine, and even some types of migraine.

Jason, a healthcare executive, was always health-conscious. He exercised, watched his diet, and kept stress at a minimum. However, he did have a family history of cardiovascular disease. His father, a physician, died of a heart attack at the age of 38.

His heart defect was surgically fixed, and after rehab, he's completely recovered.

Now, he's active with the American Heart Association, serving as a board member, and chairing the Home Runs for Heart.

"Good things do come out of bad events," says Jason.

"I count myself very lucky to have gone through that, and now be able to give back, and educate others about it."