Super-fit footballer Matt Crossen had an unexpected fixture last week – an emergency admission to hospital following a stroke.
The 23 year-old Marske United defender was rushed to The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, where, after clot-busting drugs showed no improvement to his condition, he underwent a thrombectomy (clot extraction) carried out by consultant interventional neuroradiologist Dr Rajeev Padmanabhan.
Matt was the second young patient to have had this new emergency procedure within a 48-hour period, after 32 year-old nursery nurse and mum-of-two Rachel Brace was admitted and underwent the same treatment.
Dr Padmanabhan said: “It is rare that a patient so young has a stroke. To have two such patients in such a short period of time is extremely rare.”
A stroke is caused by the blockage of the brain arteries due to the formation of a blood clot within the brain vessels. The standard treatment at present is the administration of clot-busting drugs to dissolve the clot.
Dr Padmanabhan added; “Thrombectomy in acute stroke is a promising new development, but is not applicable for all stroke patients. The standard treatment for stroke is the use of clot-busting drugs. NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommends thrombectomy in those patients in whom the intra-venous clot-busting drugs do not work.
“Currently, trials are on-going comparing thrombectomy with intra-venous clot-busting agents, in which we are hoping to participate. In our experience we have seen very promising results with thrombectomy in acute stroke.”
To perform a thrombectomy the neuroradiologist inserts a ‘stent retriever’ – a very small mechanical device mounted on a wire – into the brain artery through a small keyhole incision in the groin, under x-ray guidance.
The stent retriever is designed to ‘catch’ the clot, which is subsequently pulled out of the body through the tiny groin incision.
Matt was at work at Xercise4Less in his home town of Stockton when he felt as if he was getting “pins and needles in his head”. He then quickly became affected by the light and felt his left arm going numb.
He recalled: “I instantly thought of the advert for stroke awareness and thought this can’t be happening to me but, as I started to slur my words, I said to my work colleagues ‘I think I’m having a stroke.’ They thought I was joking – saying ‘you’re only 23 – you can’t be having a stroke’ but then quickly realised and called for an ambulance.”
“All the support I’ve had from all my family, friends and Marske United is inspirational and motivating me to get better. The medical staff are miracle workers. Previously, I’ve been bored waiting to be seen in hospital with football injuries and now I appreciate all the fantastic work that goes on behind the scenes. Everyone from the doctors, nurses and all the ward staff are brilliant.”
Two days earlier Rachel collapsed in her Leeming Bar home near Northallerton when her leg gave way. Her husband Phillip recognised the symptoms of a stroke.
She recalled: “I said to him, I can’t possibly be having a stroke, but he picked me up and placed me on the bed and called the ambulance. I’d had a headache that morning and my speech was becoming more and more slurred. I had noticed it but kept telling myself I can’t possibly be having a stroke, not at my age.
“It was scary. Your brain is telling you, you are having a stroke, but another part of your mind is trying to convince you that it can’t be happening to you.”
“The medical team here acted really swiftly. I was rushed in, had a scan to locate the blockage and they reassured me by explaining it all extremely clearly. I felt really safe in their hands and understood the urgency to act.
“My family also rallied round to accommodate our two young children, Katie, five and three year old Dylan. I can’t thank them, or the medical staff, enough for what they’ve done.”
Matt added: “Take away the myth that you’re too young to have a stroke and act immediately if you see anyone whose speech is slurred and they’ve lost co-ordination. I’m just so glad I recognised it as soon as I did.”