GLENDALE, AZ - It's a common misconception that strokes only occur in the elderly.
Twenty-four-year old Sean Corcoran suffered a stroke in June 2011, after he was diagnosed with pancreatitis.
"I was coughing and vomiting non-stop. I went to St. Joseph's and by chance was taken to the neurological floor. That's when they noticed my motor skills were off because I kept raising my right hand but not my left," Corcoran said.
Corcoran was in a coma for three days and when he woke up, he was unable to walk.
"I was in rehab every single day trying to re-learn with bars on both sides to hold me up. Really it was my obsession with writing and literature that pushed me through it all," Corcoran said.
More than a year later, Corcoran walks with a cane for support. Although he cannot work full time, he volunteers at his local public library twice a week to pursue what he loves the most.
"Luckily the stroke didn't impair my speech or my thought process. The only really noticeable thing is my left hand is clutched tight and I can't really open it. But I still really can do everything that involves reading and books," he said.
Corcoran considers himself one of the lucky ones, not having to deal with more serious stroke side affects. He hopes his journey will help others be more informed about youth getting stroke, and to make aware all of the misconceptions about the disease.
In recognition of stroke awareness month in May, Doctor Joni Clark, a stroke neurologist with the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center is trying to emphasize the rising rates of stroke among youth.
"Stroke is no longer an elderly person's disease. Obesity and diabetes – which often lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol – are major contributing factors for the increase of stroke in younger individuals.
10 common misconceptions about stroke (Barrow Neurological Institute):
- Strokes aren't preventable. Fact: Approximately 80 percent of strokes can be prevented with healthy lifestyle changes.
- Strokes are painful. Fact: The symptoms that often lead to stroke, such as dizziness or a loss of balance, do not cause sudden pain.
- Smoking doesn't cause a stroke. Fact: Smoking is a large risk factor for stroke.
- Strokes are rare. Fact: Every 45 seconds, someone in United States has a stroke and, on average, one American dies from a stroke every 4 minutes.
- Drugs and alcohol use don't increase the risk of stroke. Fact: Substance abuse and excessive alcohol consumption are leading indicators for stroke among the young.
- Misdiagnosis is rare. Fact: An estimated 1 in 7 strokes in young adults is misdiagnosed.
- Strokes can't be treated. Fact: Patients who receive treatment for stroke within 4.5 hours of their first symptoms tend to have better outcomes.
- It's all in the genes. Fact: Although family history does play a role in the risk of stroke, the hereditary conditions that increase stroke risk can often be controlled.
- High blood pressure and cholesterol should not be taken seriously. Fact: High blood pressure and high cholesterol contribute to stroke.
- A stroke is a heart condition. Fact: Although many believe a stroke occurs in the heart, it actually takes place in the brain.